SINGAPORE — A member of the public shares with TOC a letter from the grassroots advisor of his ward to announce the disbursement of Public Transport Vouchers (PTVs) by the Ministry of Transport (MOT).

These PTVs were announced by MOT in October this year, and are said to provide support for lower- to lower-middle-income households to cope with the fare adjustment that will take effect from 26 December 2022.

The PTV Exercise will cover resident households with a monthly household income per person of not more than S$1,600.

In the letter received on 23 December, Mr Zhulkarnian Abdul Rahim, Member of Parliament for Chua Chu Kang GRC, wrote to residents who are qualified to receive the PTVs that the household has qualified for one S$30 PTV for the 2022 PTV Exercise.

“We hope that this voucher will help to defray some of your household’s public transport expenses,” wrote the letter.

Now, the question here is why is the grassroots advisor notifying the resident of the PTV disbursement instead of MOT itself.

Of course, one can justify that the MPs doubling up as grassroots advisors are well suited to issue the vouchers on behalf of the Government or Transport Ministry.

But if being an MP is the basis for sending the letter on behalf of MOT, why sign the letter off as the advisor instead of the MP?

Furthermore, it becomes tricky to justify in this manner when it comes to Aljunied GRC, Hougang SMC and Seng Kang GRC, where the grassroots advisors are not the elected MPs but appointees by the People’s Association that is headed by the Secretary General of People’s Action Party (PAP) and usually PAP’s losing candidate for the constituency.

TOC understands from one opposition candidate who contested in the last election that he had a resident confided in him, the resident had to vote for the PAP candidate because he received handouts from the PAP MP.

While it is unverified whether this happened or not, the funny thing in this claim is that the handout — which is a bag of rice — was contributed by a charity and then handed out by the PAP MP.

In 2020 when Singapore was struck with the COVID pandemic and the Government was issuing out face masks, grassroots advisors were tasked with the duty of handing out the face masks to the residents instead of the MPs.

At Aljunied GRC, Victor Lye, PAP’s losing candidate at the constituency, was one of those assisting in the handout of face masks, and he posted on his Facebook, saying “Many Singaporeans don’t realise the value of our community grassroots network, working hand in hand with Government including our SAF and Home Team to serve our People.”

No doubt, some of the less informed residents might even feel grateful to Lye for giving out the free masks in times of need when the masks are entirely funded by taxpayers’ monies through the national coffer.

And in the case of the PTVs handouts, residents who are unaware of the MOT’s role in the vouchers would likely jump to the conclusion that it is the grassroots advisers who are assisting them (using the taxpayers’ monies).

In a Facebook post on 31 March this year, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said: “As at March 31, about 300,000 vouchers are still available for application.

This is out of the 600,000 PTVs valued at S$30 each that the Government made available last December.

“We will be progressively disbursing PTVs (public transport vouchers) directly to over 30,000 ComCare short- to medium-term assistance and long-term-assistance beneficiaries from April 2022, to help lower-income households.

“This is on top of the vouchers they had received previously,” he added.

So from the Transport Minister’s post, it is clear that the Government clearly has the ability to disburse the PTVs via ComCare or other means.

The past year’s result of unclaimed vouchers also shows the inefficiency of the vouchers being notified by the grassroots advisor.

But then why is MOT preferring to have the grassroots advisors write to the eligible households instead of having the money of S$30 directly credited to the households’ accounts?

Is the Ministry allowing the use of taxpayers’ monies for PAP’s candidates, whether elected or non-elected, to gain political capital?

Is it not also ironic that Mr Zhulkarnian Abdul Rahim is one of those who voted for the increase of GST, resulting in the need to issue out the PTVs, and then supposedly benefiting from the exposure of giving out handouts to those affected by the tax hike?

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