National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan today (Feb 12) rebuked the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), saying their behaviour is “unacceptable”.
He was speaking in Parliament on the Auditor-General’s audit on the town council, which had flagged several major lapses in “governance and compliance”. The report is “a sad commentary on the state of affairs at AHPETC, he said, adding that MND will take action.
POOR PATTERN OF BEHAVIOUR
Mr Khaw said the AHPETC exercised a lack of transparency, and failed to disclose things on time or submit required reports, adding that they “came up with yet another excuse”, when the ministry gave them reminders. Financial reports aside, he said the town council’s FY2013 cyclical maintenance works report – which informs MND of any delays in replacing major infrastructure – was also late for more than six months and was incomplete and inaccurate, he said.
This is serious as it potentially impacts on public health and safety, he said. “Why are reports from AHPETC always outstanding?”
Secondly, the town council appointed a related party, FMSS as its managing agent, he said. The owners are husband and wife – with the former becoming AHPETC’s secretary while the latter became its general manager.
He asked: “Why did AHPETC not disclose these related party transactions and take steps to prevent the risk of abuse when the companies it gave contracts to were owned by its key officers?”
He also said that FMSS was paid “abnormally high fees”, some 20 per cent higher than the previous managing agent that ran Aljunied and 50 per cent more than a comparable town council. The supposed “up-scaled and developed financial system” it had embarked on could not even track and make simple monthly arrears reports, as AHPETC said it had to resort to manual counting, he noted.
Mr Khaw also called out AHPETC’s Members of Parliament, pointing out that they have been “side-stepping and avoiding responsibility”. “I do expect them to exercise close supervision, and when problems arise or issues are highlighted, to step up and take responsibility, to look into them quickly and address them squarely,” he said.
“Unfortunately, throughout this AHPETC saga, we have found the MPs running the AHPETC to be evasive, unresponsive and misleading,” he said. “In response to legitimate queries from auditors, my MND officials, and their own residents and the media, they stone-walled, deflected the queries, made false or dishonest claims, raised irrelevant excuses and sought to confuse the public with a flurry of red-herrings.”