Accountability and transparency needed from AHPETC: Desmond Lee

POSTED: 21 Nov 2014  
Source Channel NewsAsia : Accountability and transparency needed from AHPETC: Desmond Lee

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said The Workers’ Party has not explained its “serious financial mismanagement”, and rising service and conservancy charges arrears.

SINGAPORE: The key issue in the poor performance of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) is accountability and transparency, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee in a statement on Friday (Nov 21).

The Workers’ Party (WP) has not explained its “serious financial mismanagement”, and rising service and conservancy charges (S&CC) arrears, said Mr Lee. “Instead, we have seen a coordinated online campaign to distract the public, using falsehoods, half-truths and speculations, by friends, sympathisers and proxies of the WP. The aim is to confuse the public and distract them from the real issues.”

The WP-managed town council (TC) was the only one out of 16 banded “red” in corporate governance and S&CC arrears management in the Town Council Management Report released on Nov 4.

Subsequently, questions were raised in various online forums on the grants given to AHPETC, in comparison to other town councils run by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). MND clarified on Thursday that the funding for town councils is based on the number of HDB flat units and flat types in an area.

The following is Mr Lee’s latest statement in full:

“AHPETC has yet to explain its serious financial mismanagement, and the S&CC arrears.  Instead, we have seen a coordinated online campaign to distract the public, using falsehoods, half-truths and speculations, by friends, sympathisers and proxies of the Workers’ Party (WP).  The aim is to confuse the public and distract them from the real issues.  MND has addressed these untruths.  This is what the WP often does when caught under the spotlight – raise a flurry of red herrings in the hope that people forget that they have not come clean.

The key issue is accountability and transparency.

By its own admission, the AHPETC has seen 29.4 per cent of its residents owing S&CC for three months or more.  That was in Apr 2013, a sudden spike beyond the already high arrears rates consistently reported in the TC’s previous submissions

How did this happen?  And what is the current arrears rate?

Only the TC knows the answer, but it refuses to answer. Why? Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Pritam Singh have said they will give answers in “due course”.  Why the delay and obfuscation?

Since May 2013, AHPETC has stopped submitting its S&CC arrears data to MND.  It now also refuses to tell the public the truth.  Ms Sylvia Lim has given the excuse that this is because they are busy with the AGO Audit.  How can this be the reason, when the TC stopped providing the data 10 months before the AGO Audit even started?  And surely the TC must know the arrears position, whether or not an Audit is in progress?

There are other concerns.  AHPETC received the same S&CC grants in FY12 that it got before the 2011 General Election.  Yet, in FY10 the TC ran an operating surplus of $3.3m, but in FY12 it ran a deficit of $734,000.  Why did this happen?  Is the S&CC from Aljunied GRC residents being used to cover the deficit in Hougang TC?  (In FY10, Hougang TC had an operating deficit of $92,000.)  If so, surely residents of Aljunied GRC are entitled to know?

Just as the TC had not answered questions raised by their own Auditors, Foo Kon Tan Grant Thornton, it has also not answered questions from the public about the state of its finances today.”

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