AHPETC Bashing – What is an MP role? Should Town Council law be reverted?

“Too often, the debates on AHPETC took on the flavour of verbal wars, where scoring political points seemed to be the order of the day.”Singapore Management University (SMU) law don Eugene Tan

“This is wicked politics at its damnest, perpetrated at the expense of the interest of ALL Singaporeans, including PAP’s own supporters, residing in an opposition run ward. I personally find such politics unbecoming, deplorable and despicable, when citizens’ interest are made secondary to a political party’s self-interest. It is awful to see the depths that the PAP brand has now sunk to.” – Thetwophilo’s Blog

“PAP ministers and MPs should examine themselves in the mirror to get a clear image on how hypocritical and self-righteous they looked when they bombarded WP on their lapses in Town Council management.”- WonderPeace

“In net effect, the berating of AHPETC using precious time in Parliament was not about accountability. It was also not about the rights of citizens, as the actions of MND have proved. But if it was about politics, then it was clearly not the smart kind.”Howard Lee

“Coming on the heels of the columbarium ‘oversight’, a fare hike and the more distant trespasses through Woodlands Checkpoint (and how about Mas Selamat?), I bet there were more than a modest number of people who cringed as these daggers were thrown wildly seemingly without second thought….the often sanctimonious and bizarre language used (think Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s mention of Harakiri) was shocking. Colourful stories can be used to great effect. These, however, were better as negative examples of what not to say.”- Amos Maximilian Lee

“But grants are real money, without it, it will cause liquidity problem for any town councils, not only AHPETC….The PAP wants to kill AHPETC by creating liquidity crisis.” -Piji Tailai

When you make someone start from scratch while taking away their funding, you (can) only expect failure.”

Some thoughts:

  • AHPETC* situation is “astounding” and warrant a change of policy, then other mistakes by the PAP Government will certainly pales in comparison from the Mas Selamat escape, Little India riots to the policy oversight in lapse in immigration surge, to the recent Seng Kang’s columbarium incident. As many coffeeshop critics have said, the current batch of Government is very reactive rather than proavtive and rarely takes responsibility except articulating “honest mistake, let’s move on” (and the latest wayang trying to talk himself out of an awkward mistake by using a Chinese folklore by none other than KBW).  Why no policy changes in those even more serious incidents (ok there is one, banning of alcohol consumption in the Little India riots case, huh?) Why the double standards?
  • The mistake was first made when the Government decided years ago that HDB shed its responsibility by outsourcing its works to the Town Councils. Not only that it has politicise an important Government function that affects citizen’s livelihood, creating unnecessary overheads and duplication, create policy confusions (e.g. which jurisdiction is under TC and which under HDB/URA). If there is one policy that need change, this flawed policy should be unwound, the flaws outweigh any benefits that comes with it, if there is any so to speak.
  • By blowing out the whole issue out of proportion, it makes one wonder if PAP has found a golden opportunity to destroy the reputation of the rising opposition’s popularity? What about the constructive politics that PM and the President have spoken of very recently?
  • The Government had accused the opposition-held Town Council that there is conflict of interests when the issuing party of a contract is also part or whole owner of the contractor (as other contractor is wary of winning the opposition contract and may risk losing other lucrative contracts of PAP-held TC’ contracts), the TC have clarified that this is not possible as it requires the final approval of the TC chairman or deputy chairman. So who is right? It sounds like any procedure oversight by many of the procedure lapses pointed out by the AGC over the years. Just need to give a warning and let the town council takes the corrective action, is there need to politicise an oversight? Making a mountain out of a molehill?
  • The AHPETC is only in its first term in office compared to PAP’s more than 30 25 years (see note#) of managing Town Council affairs (Low Thia Khiang said that AHPETC’s problems stemmed from its difficulty in finding an established managing agent to hire when it first won Aljunied GRC in May 2011. Under our current system, it seems to be that any opposition party which aspires to be elected in a GRC will have to build a town management team to train hundreds of staff officers first, (then) start shopping for an off-the-shelf accounting software). Why pick on the opposition held TC without giving it a chance to rectify. So the PAP town councils are saints and do no wrong? What about the AIMS incident?
  • It is also contradictory that the actions by the various PAP ministers speaking out within and outside the parliament seems for and on behalf of the residents of AHPETC, then mischievously  Khaw Boon Wan also announced his ministry decision to withhold about S$7 million of service and conservancy charges grants for the financial year 2014 from AHPETC until the AHPETC can fill in the gaps for its finances.  Is withholding of funds meant to penalise AHPETC, or to punish the residents or both? Is that the “repenting” that LKY spoke of during the last election?
  • Very usually strong words were being used to discredit the Opposition-held Town Councils, some words are downright degrading and borders on personal attacks: “The town council was in a shambles” (Shamugan), “Because the money was going out in broad day light, through the front door.’’ (Shamugan), “unacceptable’’(Shamugan),“unlawful’’(Shamugan), “financial mismanagement, incompetence and negligence in corporate governance” (Khaw Boon Wan),”evasive, unresponsive and misleading” (Khaw), “deflected the queries, made false or dishonest claims, raised irrelevant excuses and sought to confuse the public in the flurry of red herrings.”(Khaw), “astounding” (Khaw), “is this money lost through the front door”, “the town council is rotting and the rot is serious”, “troubling pattern of dishonest and misleading behaviour” (Heng Swee Kiat) etc just to name a few.
  • [Updated 31 Aug 2015] AHPETC in surplus for FY14/15 after factoring in MND grants: WP  and Khaw asks why WP town council rewarded friends (and why it is wrong). To be fair, other PAP TCs’ Managing Agents should also provide their annual reports publicly, only then we can comment if the profit of FMSS is excessive. Askmelah doubts this will ever happen or all hell may break loose, remember the CPF, AIM sagas, YOG budget blowout ? Remember LHL famously said ‘transparency isn’t everything’. Askmelah thinks LHL should rephrase it as “transparency isn’t everything as far as my party and Government are concerned, transparency is everything when it comes to my opponents and enemies.”
source: Roy Ngerng

source: Roy Ngerng

*****

There are many observations made in the AGO report but at the end of it all, the buck stops at AHPETC. I can’t remember if any minister has ordered any audit on any ministry or organ of state in recent times due to disclaimers or adverse opinions expressed by its auditors but nonetheless AHPETC had co-operated in this audit and will take lessons from the findings in the spirit of public accountability and good corporate governance.” — WP’s MP Png Eng Huat

“And such systems are not cheap to develop. The old system at Aljunied Town Council cost over $20 million, hardware and software, split among the other PAP town councils. AHPETC has spent over half a million dollars just to replicate what the old system could do and we still have a way to go. Isn’t that a waste of resources and public funds? Setting up a centralized computer system will certainly safeguard residents’ interest and money, no doubt.” — WP’s MP Png Eng Huat

“Comparing the cost of the PAP town council system against their system is comparing apples vs oranges. The PAP town council system is established, used by many town councils and have economies of scale. If you need to build a system from ground-up and its only used by a couple of town councils, obviously it’s going to be more expensive. Moreover, with all that talk, that company that manages that town council system did not even make a bid. The comparison is useless…..Just because a system is more expensive than the other doesn’t mean that they are being overcharged.” – Singapore Ramblings

straits times 17 Aug 2015 MP should focus on lawIn conclusion, the whole incident looks silly and laughable, reminding us of an first world economy and third world politics. Both sides, esp the PAP need to stop thinking how to fix the Opposition, needs to grow up and works for the common good of Singapore’s future. A weak opposition will do Singapore no good in the long term when the voters ,one day in the near or distant future, are sick of the incumbent’s failure and voted in an untested party to govern in desperate times. It will be the failure of PAP’s for not leaving a stable and sound political system. The incumbents in Taiwanese, the Koreans, the Japanese all have lost their rulings within the last 2 decades, it is only a mater of time it happens to Singapore. It will be an utter failure on the part of PAP if the system failed in the hands of the Opposition due to a flawed system, just like in this AHPETC’s case which is attributed to PAP’s own legacy. Or so claimed by the PAP Government who wants the voters to believe the AHPETC is a complete utter failure, which in most AHPETC voters’ mind is likely not, and the voters will prove Askmelah right in the next election. Just watch.

“Estate-management wise, I’ve lived here for 26 years and honestly, not much has changed since the handover [from PAP to WP].” “In man-on-the-street video interviews, one resident also told Yahoo Singapore that she has seen little difference in the management of her estate whether under the PAP or WP.” - Yahoo News

Related links:

 

*AHPETC == Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council

#The system of town councils was first introduced in 1989 to ensure that any political party aspiring to form the national government first shows that it can run a town council competently. As another opposition party NSP has pointed out “Any suggestion of a correlation would imply that the best people to govern the country are town planners and estate managers, which cannot be true.

 

straits times 17 Aug 2015 MP should focus on law

What was missing that we know now is the lack of continuity when one disgruntled defeated party refuses to hand over the system properly, the lack of scale in both procurement and IT system vis-a-vis an incumbent, duplication and inefficient use of resources and the worst is the aversion of commercial entities in bidding for an opposition TCs’ contract which may endanger their other contracts or chances with the incumbent party, perceived or otherwise.

MP’s role should be reverted back to enact laws, bringing the constituents’ voice to the parliament and helping to resolve their woes to the relevant agencies, running of the Town Council should be reverted back to the Government agencies. PAP should have anticipated this mess in the first place and should resolved this mess that they had created. It is time for PAP Government to fix it rather than pointing finger at the oppositions.

Related links:

Excerpt from “Landmark laws, fiery exchanges mark second session of 12th Parliament” Todayonline 22 Aug 2015

As the WP’s management of AHPETC continues to draw rigorous debates in Parliament — right up to the most recent sitting and beyond, political observers and analysts were split over whether the AHPETC tinderbox sparked more heat than light.

Nevertheless, they agreed on one thing: The debates on the topic, which were at times acrimonious, stood out in the second half of the 12th Parliament, which began with a fiery exchange between Senior Minister of State (Education and Law) Indranee Rajah and WP chief Low Thia Khiang over what constitutes “constructive politics”. Assoc Prof Tan said: “Too often, the debates on AHPETC took on the flavour of verbal wars, where scoring political points seemed to be the order of the day.”

Assoc Prof Wong felt too much airtime had been given to the issue. “I thought that was a lot of hot air, and Parliament time could have been better spent debating issues that would affect Singaporeans’ quality of life.”

But former Nominated MP Calvin Cheng disagreed as he felt the AHPETC debates were very important. “Because MPs have two responsibilities — one is to manage the town council and the other is their performance in Parliament. So if an opposition party can’t even manage a town council properly, how can it manage a country? There are no jibes, I see those as very important questions.” [Askmelah strongly disagreed with Calvin Cheng’s shallow view on the role of an MP, see the paragraph in purple below]

……..

As Singapore gears up for the coming GE, there has been some discussion on an MP’s dual roles — looking after his or her constituents and their estate, and being a voice for them in Parliament by raising their concerns and contributing to policy debates.

Assoc Prof Tan said: “Neither should take priority over the other. While most MPs get elected or re-elected on the basis of their role in the constituencies and town councils … their contributions to the law-making and policy-making process should not be shortchanged.”


 

Journalist Chua Mui Hoong was right to point out “Your MP is not the Chief Social Worker. MP supposed to raise issues and make laws”. A Member of Parliament is by definition someone who represents our voice in Parliament.

They and they alone have the privilege of voting within the debating chamber, thus helping to shape laws and policies concerning transport (MRT, taxi fares), the environment (flooding, mosquitoes) and healthcare (Medishield, hospitals), for example, through debating with the government ministers and holding them to account.

Everything else they do is secondary to this task of law-making.

Professional managers can run the town councils. Therapists can listen to your woes. A neighbour can write your letters. Churches, temples, and other voluntary groups are feeding and housing those in need. Social workers can look after dysfunctional families.

Source: http://singaporeansays.blogspot.sg/2015/08/my-mp-should-not-be-letter-writer-either.html

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