AHPETC arrears incident shows HDB and MND sleeping

By TR Emeritus

Minister of State for National Development and MP for Jurong GRC, Desmond Lee

Yesterday (26 Jan), Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) issued a press release stating that its S&CC arrears rate (for 3 months and above) for residential units as of 30 September 2014 is only 5.66% of households (‘Sylvia: AHPETC’s arrears rate is only 5.7%‘). The corresponding arrears rate for commercial units for the same period is 7.24%.

The arrears rate of 29.4% for April 2013 submitted to Ministry of National Development (MND) was an instance of reporting and human errors, AHPETC said. It erroneously double-counted some of the arrears of households.

AHPETC Chairman Sylvia Lim explained, “What AHPETC lacks is a fully operational computer system to assist AHPETC to do aggregated S&CC arrears reporting in the format required by the Ministry of National Development (MND). In the absence of such a system, all reports submitted to MND before this were prepared by staff based on data generated by AHPETC’s IT system and extracted through manual sorting and counting.”

“The former Hougang Town Council was able to do such manual reporting in the past as the number of households under management then was a fraction of what AHPETC is handling,” Ms Lim further explained.

“In the aftermath of the withdrawal of the then-computer system in 2011, that was the only way for AHPETC to comply with the aggregated arrears reporting requirements from MND until AHPETC’s own system could be enhanced,” she said.

Ms Lim also apologised for the error, “Unfortunately everyone did not notice the anomaly in the April 2013 report that was later published in the Town Council Management Report. We acknowledge the oversight, and regret the error in reporting to HDB.”

She, however, emphasized that the accuracy, integrity, monitoring and management of each individual S&CC account are not compromised in any way at any point in time, despite the manual statistics reporting process so as to comply with the data format request from MND.

Ms Lim also assured that AHPETC has enhanced its aggregated arrears reporting module sometime in November 2014 last year. It has completed and tested a module to aggregate S&CC data for 1 to less than 3 months and for 3 months and above aging. “This enhancement will improve productivity in reporting,” she said.

AHPETC arrears incident shows everyone in HDB and MND sleeping

What is interesting is that this AHPETC arrears incident also showed that everyone from HDB to MND, including Minister Khaw Boon Wan and Minister of State Desmond Lim are all sleeping on the job.

With regard to the error, a comparison of the arrears report submitted to MND by AHPETC for March 2013 and April 2013 would have shown up the error, as the amount of arrears owed for 3 or more months for April 2013 came down by about $88,000 from March 2013, but the % of households in arrears of 3 or more months increased drastically from 7.42% for March 2013 to 29.4% for April 2013:

Report submitted to HDB/MND by AHPETC

DATEAmount of Arrears 3 Mths and abovePercentage of Accounts 3 Mths and above

Even a layman can spot such an error easily. How is is that when the amount of arrears is decreasing, the percentage of households owing S&CC can shoot up in a manner so drastic – from 7.42% to 29.37%?

Yet, instead of going back to query AHPETC on the obvious error, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee, who is also son of former Cabinet Minister Lee Yock Suan, chose to “politicize” it, blaming AHPETC of incompetence in managing its arrears. The incident showed that Desmond Lee, a Minister of State, is either not in control of his job or poor in his understanding of mathematics.

To make things worse and sensing a “kill”, even Minister Lawrence Wong chose to take the opportunity to “pounce” on WP.

“Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong also leaped into the foray, crafting a long and verbose commentary to suggest that the town council’s silence on the issue signalled that ‘something is seriously wrong’,” Blogger Tattler wrote [Link].

“Both have dug for themselves holes so deep they are probably wishing that they had paid more attention to Ms Lim’s prudent advice ‘not to confuse or alarm the public by speculating on whether the S&CC arrears situation has worsened or whether AHPETC is facing bigger problems’.”

This post was first published at TR Emeritus