Workers’ Party (WP) chairperson Sylvia Lim was accused by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh of misleading her fellow town councillors, the Parliament, the court, and the public in her justification behind having to upscale the town council management software used by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) as a result of Action Information Management (AIM)'s termination of the system it provided.
Throughout his cross-examination of Ms Lim on Thursday (19 Oct), Mr Singh – who is acting on behalf of the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) – in making his case, referred to several documents in 2011, which he argued suggested that AHTC had decided to upscale the software system from Hougang, even before the town council knew that AIM would terminate its contract for the Town Council Management System (TCMS) the same year.
Mr Singh argued that this was contrary to the "false impression" that Ms Lim had "knowingly and deliberately perpetuated" regarding having to urgently upscale the existing town council management software, which was to prevent disruption of services to the Aljunied GRC's residents as a result of the termination by AIM.
Highlighting a series of emails between Ms Lim; Ms How Weng Fan of FMSS, who was also Hougang Town Council's secretary; and Mr Jeffrey Chua, who was CPG's managing director and Aljunied Town Council's general manager, Mr Singh charged that the WP town councillors already harboured the intention to upgrade the software from the very beginning, and not based on any declaration or statement by AIM.
In trying to establish his case, Mr Singh also referred to part of Ms Lim's speech Parliament in February 2015. The speech was made in response to then-National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who had raised the Auditor-General's report on the audit of Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), which found that there were "deficiencies" in AHPETC's financial and accounting systems, among other things.
Quoting a part in which Ms Lim said: "For the first contract in 2011 for managing agent services, it was triggered as the incumbent managing agent, CPG Facilities Management, asked to be released from the contract with the town council for business reasons. There was an urgent need to put in place a computer system due to the termination of the former system in use," Mr Singh singled out the phrase
Turning to Ms Lim, he charged: "In your defence, you gave the impression that it was because AIM had terminated that AHTC had to upscale its computer system."
Mr Singh questioned Ms Lim as to why she was unaware as to whether AIM could terminate the contract without reading the terms and conditions.
Ms Lim answered saying that while it is true that she and her fellow town councillors had not read the contract, she maintained that the People's Action Party (PAP) town councils developed their own TCMS, and that the opposition town council was left on their own to develop their own software, based on Mr Low's experience in the 90s, during which the managing system was taken from him.
She then reiterated that such preemptive measures were taken in their GRC residents' best interests.
When asked by Mr Singh if it was not unreasonable to check on a contract should one be concerned about termination, as a contract may permit a company to terminate on a day's notice or only in the next five years, Ms Lim replied: "It depends on the contract, and “how parties would behave is another thing”.
Mr Singh also argued that AIM had given the town council all the time it needed to move over to the new computer system, contrary to the purported abrupt termination of services.
Noting a request made by AHTC to continue utilising the AIM system until 31 Aug 2011, which AIM agreed to, Mr Singh pointed out that AIM had mentioned on 10 Jun that it would be giving a one-month notice of termination, but only gave out the notice twelve days later.
AIM, added Mr Singh, prolonged it services to AHTC until Aug 31 and gave a further extension to 9 Sep upon AHTC's request.
In response, Ms Lim explained that the first extension was actually made for the benefit of AHTC's then-managing agent, CPG Facilities Management, which needed to continue using the system at the time.
The further extension, she added, was granted by AIM for the purpose of facilitating CPG's audit work.
Ms Lim, however, did not deny that the extension benefitted the new management.
Subsequently, Mr Singh probed: "You see, Ms Lim, far from AIM trying to undermine AHTC or the WP, it bent over backwards to accede to the requests that were sought ... Do you agree?"
"Bent over backwards is a very loaded phrase," Ms Lim replied.
PRPTC lawyer accuses Ms Lim of misleading all relevant parties involved
Mr Singh said: “In all the instances I have shown you, you led the town councillors, the court, Parliament, and the public, to believe that it was because AIM had terminated that AHTC had no choice but to upscale. And therefore was put in a difficult position as far as its collections were concerned. Correct?”
Ms Lim agreed with Mr Singh.
He then went to insinuate: “And as we know from the documents, that was a false impression that knowing and deliberately perpetuated by you, because you knew the facts.
This time, Ms Lim disagreed with the argument made by Mr Singh.
Ms Lim retorted: “I was there, and it is not as what you put it.”
Citing the previous confirmations from Ms Lim, Mr Singh went on to allege: “Despite all of these, you misled everyone, you gave them the false impression, including in Parliament in the passage I have read,” referring to the suggestion that it was AIM that had terminated the contract with AHTC.
“You lied, to your town council members, you lied to Parliament, you lied in this court for defence,” charged Mr Singh.
“I disagree," said Ms Lim.
“Even now, you don’t have the honour to accept what you did was wrong?” said Mr Singh.
Ms Lim reiterated: “I disagree, Mr Singh.”
Mr Singh's cross-examination of Ms Lim continues today (Friday, 19 Oct).