A statement the Ministry of National Development (MND) released Saturday afternoon has triggered questions over whether both the civil service and the mainstream media have been used as vehicles for election politics.

In a statement released at 5pm on Saturday, MND accused FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) – the managing agent of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) from July 2011 to 2015 – of “grossly profiteering” off the town council and expressed concerns over whether payments made from the town council to the managing agent were “valid and proper”.

The Straits Times first published an article on the statement at 5pm on their website, with a breaking news alert pushed out via its SMS service at 5:09pm. Although the article has now been updated, the initial piece did not carry any comment from the Workers’ Party, which runs the AHPETC.

AFP journalist Bhavan Jaipragas first highlighted these questions: Did MND make the statement available to The Straits Times ahead of time on a Saturday afternoon, which wouldn’t be a work-day for many of its journalists? Why was WP’s comment not sought before the story first went out?

WP later rebutted the ministry’s accusations, accusing them of making “spurious statements to distract the public and aimed at politically discrediting AHPETC.”

WP chairman Sylvia Lim also questioned what the MND meant when it alleged that FMSS had “abnormal” profit margins, as it is not clear what the profit margins of managing agents in other town councils are.

“It is unfortunate that the political environment has put non-PAP town councils at a financial disadvantage due to the lack of competitive bidders. Your Ministry ought to recognise the existence of an imbalanced system and take into consideration the political reality of the situation,” she wrote.

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