Maliki rebuts Pritam on upgrading bias

Maliki rebuts Pritam on upgrading bias

Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman yesterday rejected suggestions by Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) that grassroots groups were slow to push for upgrading programmes in opposition wards.

Dr Maliki said the Ministry of National Development (MND) has been fair to the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and treated it no differently from other town councils.

The Citizens' Consultative Committees (CCCs), grassroots bodies appointed by the Government, had worked with the WP town council to identify upgrading projects under the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) programme, he said.

A list of 17 projects was finalised, of which 12 were proposed by AHPETC.

Mr Singh had sought to give his version of events to the House, saying CCCs had been slow in working with his town council to secure funding from the ministry.

He said AHPETC made contact with the CCCs in May 2012 on CIPC funding but, after a series of correspondence, "there has been no substantive update".

Dr Maliki replied that the CCCs have to raise funds for the proposals and "need a bit more time to implement the projects".

"I don't know why Mr Singh would now turn around, blame the CCCs for tardiness, and unfairly paint them in such a negative light in the eyes of the public, when the CCCs... gave significant consideration to the town council's proposals and were prepared to support many of them," Dr Maliki added.

In response, Mr Singh said "the CCC can work much faster as shown by the previous town council management", adding that $12 million was allocated to the CCCs through MND between 2009 and 2011 but "nothing has been allocated to AHPETC since 2012".

Dr Maliki said CIPC funds were disbursed through CCCs and so "it is therefore incorrect for Mr Singh to say that MND had previously given CIPC funding to the former Aljunied town council, but withdrew it from AHPETC".

The WP won Aljunied GRC in the May 2011 general election and formed a town council that included Hougang. It took in Punggol East after winning it in the January 2013 by-election.

Dr Maliki also said AHPETC was given six Home Improvement Programme and three Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) projects from 2012 to 2013, "comparable to the number of projects received by other town councils".

But "when it comes to exerting its autonomy even against prevailing HDB policies, it is the AHPETC that has been especially aggressive and often with total disregard to such national policies".

Dr Maliki said AHPETC had unilaterally cut NRP works at Serangoon North avenues 1 and 2 as it exceeded the approved budget.

"The local grassroots informed HDB that residents had the impression that the items were cut by HDB because AHPETC was run by the opposition. Again, this is a mischievous distortion," he said.

WP chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) said the consultants for the Serangoon project were appointed before the WP took over.

"The architects and other consultants were in a sense passed over from the previous town council management to work with us," she said, adding that the project's management fee was 3.5 per cent, which "is within market norm".

Dr Maliki also said AHPETC had given "the bulk of the projects to Hougang SMC, although Aljunied GRC has more eligible projects", adding that this was a call MPs could make.

Mr Singh said three precincts in Hougang and 20 in Aljunied had been nominated for the upgrading programmes. He said more Hougang precincts were picked as "Hougang wasn't given any main upgrading or interim upgrading projects prior to 2011".

ziliang@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 12, 2015.
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