The Housing Development Board (HDB) appointing an independent panel to represent a town council to file civil suits against that town council's chairman has surely got to be a first in Singapore. The Aljunied Hougang Town Council is not the first town council to have had administrative challenges. What about when PAP town councils decided to invest town council monies in products arranged by the now-defunct Lehman Brothers? Surely those would have merited a civil suit. Why then is an arguably more serious mistake ignored while a less egregious one so publicly penalised?
How about all the construction work defects found across multiple HDB estates? Surely, we should look into all those contracts too and investigate how and why those contracts were awarded? If we looked deeply enough, there may well be a case of awarding contracts improperly too.
Given that they are all town councils, the only notable difference is that the one penalised is one run by the opposition while the ones who were allowed to sweep mistakes under the carpet were PAP run ones. Looking at this factual matrix, can we be blamed for crying foul?
The HDB appointed an independent panel but how independent is this panel really? On what basis were they appointed? What are their credentials? What is their remuneration and who is paying? Are we the public funding a high profile drama that we did not even ask for or want?
The panel members are:
- Senior counsel Philip Jeyaretnam
- Senior counsel N. Sreenivasan
- KPMG managing partner Ong Pang Thye
Apart from Ong who arguably is the numbers guy, why have the two senior counsels been chosen?
If we were to examine every single PAP run town council, are we sure that we will not similarly find relationship overlaps that the panel is accusing the WP of having? Also, why was there no industry expert chosen to provide insight into market practice? On what basis has the panel come to the conclusion that a civil suit should be taken? There are so many questions but so few answers.
If we are throwing the doors to town council management wide open, then all doors to all town councils have to be open to scrutiny. Shall we also appoint third parties to audit and examine the contracts of all town councils? Might as well right? If we are cleaning up one, let's spring clean all.
The thing about exposing the alleged mistakes of others is that we run the risk of also exposing our own mistakes. As the saying goes, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.