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Lim Tean demands Singapore Land Authority to account for discrepancy in ministers’ bungalow rentals and recent bungalow bid

SINGAPORE — A growing dispute over property rentals of black-and-white bungalows has brought Lim Tean, leader of the People’s Voice party, to publicly demand an explanation from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

His criticism revolves around a recent tender for a colonial-era Black & White Bungalow located at 1 Goodwood Hill.

The tender closed on 26 April 2023, and the 106,000 sq ft property received a top bid of S$69,999 for monthly rental. The second highest bid trailed closely at S$68,888.

On Wednesday, Mr Lim drew attention to this in a Facebook post by comparing these figures to the rental rates of the residences of two high-ranking government officials: Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

Both ministers are tenants in larger, state-owned colonial bungalows, for which they reportedly pay S$26,500 and S$20,000 per month, respectively.

In a statement, Mr Lim called on the SLA to justify the discrepancy, saying, “The SLA has a lot of explaining to do to the Singapore public on why Shanmugam and Vivian are paying such low rentals on significantly bigger properties, when others are prepared to pay up to S$70,000 for a smaller property.”

Shanmugam’s property stretches across a sprawling 250,000 sq ft, while Balakrishnan’s covers 136,100 sq ft. The SLA, which manages these properties, falls under the purview of Shanmugam’s Ministry of Law.

Both ministers were previously cleared of any wrongdoing relating to their rentals in an investigation conducted by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean.

The CPIB report to the Prime Minister concluded: “CPIB has found no evidence of corruption or criminal wrongdoing in the two rental transactions of the Ridout Road State properties by Ministers Shanmugam and Balakrishnan.”

The report also indicated that Shanmugam originally offered a rental rate of S$25,000 per month for his property at 26 Ridout Road, following advice from his agent. The SLA eventually proposed a rental of S$26,500, which Shanmugam accepted.

As for Balakrishnan’s property at 31 Ridout Road, his rental for the second term increased from S$19,000 to S$20,000 per month, reflecting market conditions in 2022.

Further questions have been raised by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Hazel Poa of the Progress Singapore Party who asked whether the large empty additional land that is part of the 26 Ridout Road property was given any value during valuation, or if the property was valued solely on the basis of the gross floor area.

Ms Poa said, “…while I accept that the rental will be more based on the gross floor area than empty land area, but it is a bit difficult to accept that the large empty extra land that is added into the boundaries of 26 Ridout Road is put at zero value.”

Senior Minister Teo responded to this, stating: “the valuation of the property is done by the professional valuers and I would not second-guess their valuation.”

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