Duty of regulators to call out lapses in governance: DPM Teo

Government agencies are only doing their duty in taking the Workers' Party-run town council to task over its lapses in finances, said Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

At a People's Action Party (PAP) press conference, Mr Teo rebutted the WP's charge that government departments are targeting the ruling party's political opponents.

Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) chairman Sylvia Lim made this argument on Sunday, after the Ministry of National Development (MND) produced figures that it said showed that AHPETC's former managing agent had been "grossly profiteering" off its sole client.

Yesterday, Mr Teo said that calling out lapses in governance was the duty of regulators like the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra), which did an ad-hoc review of the managing agent's auditor after the MND flagged its concerns.

It was Acra which found that FM Solutions and Services, AHPETC's then managing agent, had turned a net profit of $2 million in the same year that the town council had an operating deficit of $2 million.

"That's their duty, whether it is a PAP town council, a government agency, a private company or a statutory board. And we expect no less from them when it comes to an opposition-run town council," said Mr Teo, who is in charge of the civil service.

Weighing in at the same press conference, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed that government agencies "have the responsibility to investigate the facts if there are mistakes".

"And if there is a need to take corrective actions or legal actions, they will have to do so.

"We have to deal with this issue fairly. We cannot say just because it is the opposition's town council, and that the problem may be politicised, so we give them special treatment by not checking the details of their operation or some of their internal problems," said Mr Lee, speaking in Mandarin.

"Whether the problems exist is an objective fact. It will be good if the problems can be found out. Everyone should welcome it."

If there were problems in a PAP-run town council, that would be his problem as well as the MND's, said Mr Lee, because as party secretary-general, he "takes the final responsibility".

He also said that AHPETC's issues were serious ones which raised questions about its governance, profitability, viability and propriety. The WP will have to explain these issues to voters, he added.

"It's regrettable that it has not been satisfactorily addressed and explained until now, but I think these are things which voters will take note of," he said.

This article was first published on Sept 2, 2015.
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