Sunday 23 August 2015

WP answers 'haven't shed light on AHPETC situation'

By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2015

In a blistering attack, Mr Hri Kumar Nair, a PAP MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, yesterday said the so-called answers given by the Workers' Party (WP) so far about lapses at its town council have not shed any light about the situation there.

And Singaporeans are left none the wiser about whether public funds have been lost or misappropriated, he added.

He told the WP that it needs to order a forensic investigation into the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) accounts to set things right.

Mr Nair's Facebook post followed comments that the WP's Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam made at a forum on Tuesday.

Mr Giam had said it is only the People's Action Party that is not satisfied with his party's answers.

He also said the WP has "explained every point that has been brought up which demands an explanation and we have spared no effort in that".

Mr Nair retorted that Mr Giam "does not give Singaporeans enough credit".

He listed seven "basic questions" which he said the WP had not answered. These range from why the party has not carried out an independent investigation into issues flagged by the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) to why it has not done anything to determine if public funds have been lost or misappropriated. The AGO uncovered lapses in governance and compliance with the law at AHPETC.

These include its failure to disclose related-party transactions involving its managing agent companies, FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) as well as FM Solutions and Integrated Services (FMSI), which were owned by some of AHPETC's key officers.

Mr Nair noted that AHPETC had not asked both companies to open their books for scrutiny.

In comparison, he said, when the AGO found flaws in the way the National Library Board (NLB) procured electronic resources, the NLB responded by tightening its processes and referring the matter to the police.

Mr Nair added that MPs who manage millions in public monies owe a duty to the people to ensure that town councils comply with the law.

He said: "MPs are all accountable and must act with honesty and integrity. If for any reason a town council goes wrong, MPs have the responsibility to be transparent and take effective action to put things right, regardless of how embarrassing it may be to the MPs personally or to their party.

"The WP has lawyers, and it knows it can be done. But the WP does not want to do it. Why not? That is one more question it has not answered."

When contacted yesterday, Mr Giam referred The Straits Times to the open letter his party sent to residents in June explaining its efforts to address the lapses at AHPETC.

In it, AHPETC chairman and Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim denied that the town council had awarded managing agent contracts to "friends", referring to FMSS and FMSI. She also said the town council had not overpaid the companies.

She said "AHPETC has made some improvements and has also acted promptly to hire external accountants to assist to clean up its accounts and to further strengthen its processes and controls. The work is making progress and certain financial issues will take time to resolve".

WP must now walk the talk, take action

AHPETC paid Managing Agent estimated S$1.6m a year more than other TCs: MND

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