Recently we’ve been inundated with coverage on the High Court decision that found Worker’s Party (WP) MPs Pritam Singh, Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang liable for for damages against the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) and the debate on Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s motion in Parliament for Ms Lim and Mr Low to recuse themselves from AHTC’s financial matters.
Following those incidents, WP’s Yee Jenn Jong took to Facebook to comment on the remarks being made about the case.
In a long Facebook post on 8 November, Mr Yee highlighted an excerpt which said: “Assistant Professor Woo Jun Jie, a Singaporean political analyst at the Education University of Hong Kong, said that if anything, Tuesday’s proceedings signified that the parliamentary majority — and the citizens it represents — have voiced their disapproval of the current arrangements at the AHTC.”
Mr Yee noted that this sentence was worded to seem that the views of the PAP MPs reflect the views of Singaporeans as a whole, which he disagrees with.
Mr Yee said, “Elections here is still pretty much first with party as the biggest consideration (their brand, manifesto, track record, and even their ability to use fear and media) and then the candidate(s) on offer in the constituency. MPs are elected to run the constituency but do they necessarily speak the views of the residents?”
Referencing the motion in parliament by DPM Heng for the recusal of Ms Lim and Mr Low from AHTC financial matters, Mr Yee pointed out that the government has it’s own financial issues to deal with, providing five examples.
Auditor’s ‘adverse opinion’ of PA accounts
First, Mr Yee talked about the People’s Association (PA) which reports to the Prime Minister’s Office. He said, “For years (more than a decade), the PA accounts had financial omissions which led to the auditors giving ‘adverse opinion’, the lowest possible level on their accounts.”
“For an organisation handling $1 billion budget a year, surely there could have been speedier response when the accounts were first flagged as ‘adverse’.”
Mr Yee noted that when the Auditor General’s Chamber finally did audit the 91 of the Community Club Management Committees, it was found that 35 had failed to obtain proper approvals for award of contracts. He referenced a TOC article which summarised the issue.
He then pointed out how then Minister and PA Chairman Mr Lim Swee Say said that there were “good intentions, not dishonesty”.
“It took more than a decade to correct years of ‘adverse’ audit opinion,” noted Mr Yee.
“The very first AGC check on just a subset of PA revealed an alarming high percentage of non-compliance. Why the slackness to act?”
Claims of missing $22.5 million gone unanswered
The second example Mr Yee highlighted was the $22.5 million that Charles Chong claimed, during the 2015 general elections, was missing from Punggol East when it was under WP management.
“It was said during GE hustling. Lee Li Lian lost by just over 1% in the GE. WP demanded proof then and ever once a while since, but the silence is deafening,” said Mr Yee.
He praised WP MP Png eng Huat for continuing to raise this issue, especially after auditors from AHTC and PRTC found no evidence of a missing $22.5 million.
“No response at all. No apologies for fake news,” slammed Mr Yee.
He also highlighted the international corruption case involving government-linked company Keppel Corp and the suspected misused of funds involving former Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president and former PAP MP Zainudin Nordin, the latter which Mr Yee says is taking a long time for action to be taken.
Finally, he talked about how the then-AHPETC was subjected to audit after audit.
“I doubt any other organisation in the history of Singapore had anything close to such scrutiny,” said Mr Yee.
He highlighted how a company called Action Information Management (AIM) terminated its contract with AHTC which left the town council without a system to operate. Mr Png and his team worked to get an alternative IT system in place so that it can now supply the Ministry of National Development with regular reports, said Mr Yee.
That system is now available as an alternative should any opposition parties win constituencies in future general elections, notes Mr Yee.
Mr Yee then acknowledged that TC funds are important and that all TCs should be subjected to periodic checks by the AGO, not just AHTC.
“Even externally audited government organisations and stat boards when put through AGO will reveal a string of sometimes embarrassing irregularities. It will be good practice for all TCs to go through because we will never know if there will be some corrupt GM of TCs somewhere using any weakness in monitoring to extract self-benefits.”
Noting that Hougang and Aljunied are well-maintained as any other town, Mr Yee said, “Sadly, TCs were worked into our political system because the PAP government then had wanted residents bear more of the consequences of the MPs that they elect…But withholding IT systems? Upgrading for votes? Depriving or delaying opposition wards of community improvement funds? Is it fair to withhold taxpayers’ monies and even monies from residents (in the case of the IT system transferred to PAP-owned AIM) so that the opposition will slip up in the management of TCs?”
In an update to the post, Mr Yee later said, “PAP wanted Singapore to know that there is enough talent for only 1 A-team. All others will fail miserably.”
“People are supposed to be worried because the value of their flats will fall but the values of their flats are no worse than in PAP-controlled towns,” illustrated Mr Yee.
He continued, “Without a computer system, you should fail because you cannot do proper operations because you have to manage some 100,000 or more flats, cannot pass audit, and cannot give MND the reports they want. An alternative system was built up that can now do the work. Systems were progressively put into place. There is now the experience to handle a GRC and even more GRCs if Singaporeans so choose to.”
He cautioned that Singapore cannot operate on a ‘scorched earth policy’ for it to succeed.
“Singapore belongs to Singaporeans and not to any political party. If indeed a capable team B comes up, it should be good for Singapore.”