SINGAPORE - "The rhetoric from the WP is always about helping the poor man. The reality is that WP took money from the man in the street and gave it to FMSS, to their friends," said Law Minister K Shanmugam in Parliament on Thursday.
Mr Shanmugam distributed a table that compared managing agent rates island-wide, showing that from July 2013 to July 2014, FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) charged both residential and commercial units almost twice the amounts other town councils charged.
He added that the calculated difference in annual payment is $1.6 million, which adds up to $6.4 million over four years.
Mr Shanmugam was questioning the transparency and accountability of Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), following a recent report by the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) on several lapses it had found in its financial accounts.
In an earlier report by The Straits Times, the AGO said that although "double-hatting" is common in town councils, "the key officers of AHPETC who had ownership interests in FMSS and at the same time performed a role (for AHPETC) in approving payments to FMSS were in clear conflicts of interest."
Besides the conflicts of interest, the AGO's report flagged other lapses in AHPETC's accounts, namely lapses in management of sinking funds, lapses in arrears of service and conservancy (S&C) charges, lapses in internal controls and procurement, and inadequacies in management and accounting systems, as summarised by The New Paper.
According to Channel News Asia, Mr Shanmugam said: "The basic point is that while the Town Council lost money, FMSS and FMSI seem to have made money."
The Law Minister added that "the law takes an extremely strict view on related party transactions, on conflict of interests."
In closing, he said: "We have to ask the WP to come clean and explain yourselves to the public."