07 August 2011

Bringing the gavel down on Workers Party I

MSN builds campaign against WP and Sylvia Lim

There is an unfolding situation over at Aljunied-Hougang Town Council. No doubt it's been angled ever so subtly by the government-owned media in Singapore as the B plot and convenient distraction to its presidential election due to take place on 27 August. Like a carefully plotted campaign, Singapore's news media is content to put its citizens on a drip on this story, calibrating the slow release of information that may build up to an implied allegation of mismanagement or corruption in the AHTC as well as the original HTC.

The reporters have the full story but they will not release all of it, not all at once - even though they have the fullest access to the information for a long time. Their cynical exercise may be rightly dismissed as a ploy but what if the story does have legs?

Non-transparency? Improper procedures? Or something far worse?

Consider this: Almost immediately after winning the ward of Aljunied, the Workers Party's town council HATC employed a new managing agent without a tender. The managing agent is FM Solutions (FMSS).

What is even more peculiar is how Ms Sylvia Lim, the incoming MP for Aljunied and concurrently the chairman of AHTC and HTC before that, defends this decision. She alleges "the decision to award FMSS the contract without calling for a tender was due to the deadline set by the Ministry of National Development".

That's bizarre logic there, Sherlock! If there's a deadline that the town council can't meet, the most obvious thing to do is to retain the old managing agent temporarily for a year - not replacing the incumbent with a new managing agent!

We see no logic for WP to claim grounds for its extraordinary measures. During the last election, the Aljunied ward had the least amount of redrawing. We do not hear of other town councils having to enact such measures despite their greater turmoil and reorganisation.

What's even more bizarre is how the managing agent was formed and registered with ACRA only just - on 15 May 2011, to be precise. Yes, AHTC terminated the ongoing incumbent whose contract was still in existence so they could hire a managing agent that is literally brand new. According to ACRA reports, this entity was formed not long before the elections with a paid up capital of $500,000 for the expressed sole purpose of providing town council services.

Let's say anyone with access to competent polling would have known Aljunied would fall to the Workers Party. Let's say someone is enterprising enough to do pre-emptively sink half a million to form a company whose sole business activity is "town councils" to bid for the managing agent position with the new Aljunied Town Council. And hire 77 people on short notice. But that doesn't really make sense unless they're very certain they'd get the contract. And it makes even less sense if FMSS was formed just to contest for the sole tender of AHTC.

None of us would believe that a newly established, costly venture will be content to get a one year contract by the back door. For all intents and purposes, FMSS will be awarded the full contract next year by the AHTC and hence help the press build up its allegations of procurement corruption.

One director, five directors, how many key directors?

Now Sylvia assures us that its managing agent's "key directors have been in the field for an average of 20 years". I don't know what this sentence means. No one can know what it means because it means nothing. It's nonsense, gobbledegook, balderdash. Here, I'll hold your hand in this exercise.

What is an "average" and why is it a meaningful number? An average is the sum total of the attributes of all the units divided by the total number of units there are.

The statement "FMSS's directors have been in the field for an average of 20 years" would make sense in this case. But to say that its key directors (i.e. not all directors) have an average of 20 years tells you exactly nothing. It's an intellectually dishonest and cynical statement. It's intellectually dishonest because an average of a subset of a population says nothing about the population, and cynical because legally speaking, all the directors of a company are jointly accountable - key directors or otherwise.

FMSS has 6 directors in total. Which are its "key directors"? What is the average experience of all the directors in FMSS? These are questions we want answered!

Of course ACRA has all this on record. You'll also notice how FMSS suddenly increased from its original sole director, Mr Danny Loh Chong Meng, registering 4 more directors hurriedly on 16 June just after the press started reporting on WP town councils. Who are these mysterious men? Are they normal directors or key directors? Where did they work previously and how much experience do they have in town council management?

Of interest to us is of the 4 new directors found their way into FMSS, a certain How Weng Fan also happens to be a former secretary of HTC, the direct precursor of AHTC. Is this not already a conflict of interest? When did How Weng Fan stop being a secretary of HTC? Was that before or after the formation of FMSS? How many other directors of FMSS have rendered services for HTC in the past? How many of them have rendered exclusive services for HTC?

Now you see why the news media is preparing the ground with the initial charge of non-transparent procedure in the Workers Party's management of the Aljunied-Hougang town council? It's so it can lead to the eventual allegation of corruption in public procurement.

Love me tender, WP

In fact, Sylvia's logic is even more warped if you take into account the fact that AHTC did have the time anyway to call for a tender for four other contracts on 17 June, barely weeks after winning the ward. And again, it made this decision over the option of holding on to its existing contractors temporarily for a year. Yes, AHTC had so little time that it found the time to call for a tender for everything but a managing agent in this Classifieds ad.

It has so little time that the tender period from announcement to closing date is just 2 weeks - a quickie compared to PAP-held town council project tenders, which are normally 3 weeks to 1 month.

To town council service providers and managers, this should set off alarm bells. Players in the town council services industry need at least 3 weeks to compete competently for a tender because of the time frames involved to get the necessary documentation, certificates, and licenses from the Building and Construction Authority.

In a more bizarre note, the AHTC tender insists on a "pay first" scheme. Ordinarily (i.e. how PAP town councils do things), interested contractors attend the tender briefing to get an idea of the scope of work, the coverage and condition of the town council's area. Then if they feel they are up for it and are still interested, they'll pay the money for the tender documents.

In contrast, AHTC demands that interested contractors pay first to attend the tender briefing. Under what circumstances would any contractor take part in this ridiculous process? Your guess is as good as mine, dear readers.

If we assume procurement corruption, AHTC's shortened and backwards tender process will certainly benefit players who are certain they'll get the awards, i.e. players who have links to the town council. It would be interesting to note which companies won the tenders and who heads them. It would fit in with the same shortened and illogical awarding of the management agent contract to FMSS too.


Anonymous said...

Well, well, from what you wrote, it looks like the darling of the opposition, the WP, isn't as noble as what they have made themselves out to be.

Power corrupts. How true.....

Anonymous said...

" We do not hear of other town councils having to enact such measures despite their greater turmoil and reorganisation."

Just curious about the basis of your statement.

Anonymous said...

very interesting indeed, we have to see what explanation WP can give.

how about digging Potong Pasir too?? heard Seetoh also did the same, maybe even worse, hope you are able dig out all the "skeletohs" to share with us too.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with Worker's Party managing its own backyard?

Jeesh, you seriously believe PAP management for the last 46 years has been clean?

Go and do something decent for this country before the foreign talents brought in by the PAP run over it.

7-8 said...


Firstly the problem is not exclusive to the WP. There are blatant examples of PAP town councils with conflicts of interests as well:


Retaining the old town council management is obviously political suicide. The old town council is too closely associated with the PAP. The AHTC is actually allowing the old contractor to sabo itself? That is ridiculous.

Even if both sides have the best intentions, what happens when something goes wrong? Both sides will be pointing fingers at each other. No way. If you have any sense at all, if you are running a GRC town council for the first time you will never let the enemy into your camp.

"Let's say anyone with access to competent polling would have known Aljunied would fall to the Workers Party."

You're being unrealistic here. Even the PAP did not know they were going to lose Aljunied. Nobody knew, nobody can conduct such a poll because the events that took place over the 9 days of campaigning can swing the result. Let's not even mention the fact that this poll would be illegal.

Suppose you were WP (I get the impression you never tried putting yourself in their shoes). Do you want to try to win the election first, or do you want to set up the town council first?

Let me mention a fact you don't seem to have grasped. Singapore's entire political future rests on the success of this town council. Should this town council fail, all the gains that the opposition has made in 2011 will be wiped out. The task of running this council must be given to people you know very well, people you can trust.

Conversely, I've seen the way that the government awards tenders. They normally decide who to award the tender to, and then get 2 other people to submit their names for show. It's not necessarily a better system.

Wait until the next round. But then again, you never know after 2016 how many town councils the WP is going to be running. It could be any number between 0 and 5.

Anonymous said...

http://www.scribd.com/mobile/documents/62636204 Replies by Sylvia Lim on this issue.

Anonymous said...

to clear your doubts, Mdm How Weng Fan was formerly the Estate Manager of HTC for a few years, and have worked in HTC for many yrs prior to being a manager. after WP won Aljunied, HTC was then turned into AHTC, which makes it a reasonable decision to include her in their future plans.

FMSS, founded by Mr Loh Chong Meng, existed for many years as a small business under HTC, and after winning the aljunied elections, it was decided to be the independent management company for AHTC.

I do wish that everyone would know the past before judging the present based on mere media coverage.

these people have worked hard for many yrs and i believe their hard work should not be deemed as "illegal" or "dirty tricks" just because they suddenly received some limelight from the media. they have dealt with complaints, unreasonable requests and many more issues that perturb the living conditions of the Hougang estates and facilities. They have helped many people solve their problems, please do not cast judgements in stone before knowing the truth.

should you have any opinions of suspicions, i'm sure their history can be cleared by merely asking them.

theSeeker said...

I like how a lot of you leaving comments say its OK for WP to indulge in conflicts of interest because after all, the PAP have been doing it for years too!

In case you have forgotten, 2 wrongs don't make a right.

And don't give me, "But the PAP makes it so hard for opposition to build themselves up." That's bollocks and you know it. If the WP has any substance at all, they will find a way around the PAP roadblocks without compromising their own integrity. It IS difficult, but NOT impossible.

Anonymous said...

Jurong Towncouncil already explained that they appointed him as GM AFTER they got the contract to facilitate the running of the town council. End of story.

Anonymous said...

There are 2 elements to this story that make both situations distinctly different.

For AHTC, they did not call a tender for the managing agent but instead awarded the contract to a trusted contractor which has supported WP over the years. The question here should not be about conflict of interest, because that would similarly apply to practically all PAP town councils with their supporters working for their managing agents. The question should be about whether the waiver of a tender was justified and whether the handover period in the current Town Council Act is too tight.

The second issue is about AIM, which is a PAP-owned company. Is it correct for a PAP town council to sell assets belonging to the town council over to a company that is owned by the political party running the town council? MND has judged that it's OK, but I don't think many people agree.

In both cases, there is no charge of financial irregularity. The crux of the issue is corporate governance relating to procurement procedures (AHTC) and the transfer of assets (AIM).

Both need to be addressed because current legislation does not give sufficient consideration to these matters.

akikonomu said...

I agree that AHTC is a mostly a timing issue, which leads to questions of due process and corporate governance.

IF Sylvia Lim can accuse Teo Ho Pin of crafting the AIM tender so tightly that practically only one firm would be interested, the parallel here would be Sylvia Lim (as HTC chairman) crafting the timeline for the tender so tightly, only one firm would be interested.

Further, I point you towards the timeline of events. Can we assume without being made fools of, we can buy the story that without any urging or privileged information by WP, FMSS was set up on the eve of the elections, with a paid up capital of 500K, hired 77 workers in short notice... just so that in the event of WP winning Aljunied GRC, it would provide services at short notice? I think not.