The high profile court case involving involving three Workers’ Party (WP) MPs and five other defendants and panels representing Pasir Ris Town Council and Hougang-Aljunied Town Council has thrown up various issues that highlight the existence of double standards between town councils run by opposition parties and those run by the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP).
One of the issues that has been raised is that even though there are two architects on the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council panel, the higher priced firm was engaged for seven out of 10 construction projects. This begs the question, is it always the case where the cheapest quote be utilised? Should it not be the “best value” bid that wins as opposed to just the cheapest? Also, costs aside, depending on the nature of the project, the resources and strengths of the particular bidder in question, the cheapest choice may not be the most suitable.
Let’s take the example of a project that involves a significant amount of landscaping with both companies bidding. Company A’s forte is in landscaping while Company B’s skills lie in refurbishing old buildings. Even if Company B comes out cheaper, wouldn’t it be more prudent to pick Company A given that its strengths suit the project in question more? In operating a town council, isn’t it more responsible to pick the company that would more likely than not do a better job? Price isn’t the only consideration. Rather, it is a question of picking the most appropriate person to do the job.
Earlier, this year. there were complaints in Chua Chu Kang Town Council of repeated delays in the completion of projects. Apart from grave inconveniences to the residents, it may also run up additional costs as the deadlines are extended. The contract in question was awarded to the lowest bidder. However taking into account the repeated delays and the potentially increased costs as a result, was the cheapest option the best choice? Indications are that residents did not feel that the particular contractor was the best choice. In that case, has the PAP run Chua Chu Kang Town Council breached its fiduciary duties too?
What about the exposures that PAP run town councils were subjected to as a result of the demise of Lehman Brothers? This caused far more financial damage than anything the WP run town councils have done. Why is it that in those cases, no further action was taken? Looking that these examples, we can reasonably come to the conclusion that opposition run town councils are far more scrutinised than PAP run ones. Why is that and how is that fair?
It seems manifestly unjust that the WP are taken to task while the PAP are not? As lawyer for the WP MPs, eminent Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah eruditely said “What is OK for Peter doesn’t seem to be OK for Paul.”
In the past, many opposition politicians ranging from JBJ to Chee Soon Juan to Tang Liang Hong have been made bankrupt by the PAP. This in turn curtailed their ability to run for office. Given that $2.8 million compensation is being sought from all eight defendants, including former WP chief Low Thia Khiang, party chairman Sylvia Lim and current party leader Pritam Singh, is there a possibility that they are being financially sanctioned too? The three WP politicians facing the possible financial setbacks are after all the leading figures of the WP and if rumours are to be believed, the general election is set for some time next year. Could there be a plan to target the competition ahead of the elections?