In order to supplement town councils’ work in the estate, the government provides grants to them.
The grants are disbursed through the Ministry of National Development (MND), to the grassroots organisations, in particular to the Citizens Consultative Committees (CCCs), which are at the apex of all grassroots organisations.
The committee which oversees the approval of funds is the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC).
Opposition Members of Parliament have, through the years, accused the Government of withholding such funds from them, and that they are made subservient to un-elected grassroots leaders.
We take a simple look at how this is set up.
The Town Council Act empowers the minster to disburse the funds.
“For the purposes of enabling a Town Council to carry out its functions under this Act or any other Act, the Minister may from time to time make grants-in-aid to the Town Council of such sums of money and subject to such conditions as the Minister may determine out of moneys to be provided by Parliament.”
“The function of the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) is to provide funding support for community improvement projects proposed by Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs).” [Source]
The 12 members of the Community Improvement Projects Committee are:
CIPC funds are then channelled through the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs) which are often chaired by PAP members.
The chairman of the CCC for Bedok Reservoir in Aljunied GRC, for example, is Victor Lye.
Mr Lye is also a PAP branch chairman.
Finally, according to a Straits Times report in January: “The adviser to these grassroots bodies, usually the People’s Action Party electoral candidate, has to apply for the grant.”
An earlier Straits Times report in April 2012 confirms this:
“The CIPC funds are disbursed by MND but any application for them needs the grassroots adviser’s endorsement.”
As mentioned, this grassroots adviser is invariably a PAP MP or a failed PAP candidate, or a PAP member.
What happens then if you are an opposition MP seeking CIPC funds?
In July 2013, the Workers’ Party MP for Aljunied GRC, Pritam Singh, asked the Minister for National Development to clarify whether the guidelines for the utilisation of the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) funding will be made available in the public domain and furnished to all Town Councils.
The Minister replied:
“The Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) provides funding support for infrastructural and recreational facilities, including general amenities for the benefit of residents in the whole constituency. Such facilities include covered walkways, footpaths, cycling tracks and playgrounds.
“CIPC funds are disbursed through the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs) as they are close to the ground and will be better able to decide on the projects which will be most useful for the local residents. We give the CCCs flexibility to assess the relevance of any proposal and to prioritise them for implementation so that the CIPC funds are optimally utilised. The operating principle for the CCCs is to ensure that the approved CIPC projects are useful, functional, represent value for money, freely accessible to the community and properly planned.
“Town Councils may approach their respective CCCs if they have other queries.”