WP must now walk the talk, take action

WP must now walk the talk, take action
The audit findings on the many lapses of the managing agent of Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (above) and the way the town councillors discharged their duties are serious indictments of the town council, says the writer.

Last week, I tabled in Parliament the Auditor- General's audit report on Aljunied-Hougang- Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and MPs had a full debate on the matter.

The audit findings on the many lapses of AHPETC's managing agent, FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), and the way the town councillors discharged their duties are serious indictments of the town council.

The Workers' Party (WP) MPs' lack of transparency and accountability in their handling of this mess made for sad reading, raising serious questions about their integrity.

After two days of debate, all MPs voted in support of the motion. The WP joined the consensus and voted in support as well.

Some say that the WP MPs had to do so, given the abundant evidence gathered by the auditors. How could they vote against transparency and accountability after brandishing these values so stoutly themselves?

But the real test of whether their votes were sincere and whether they truly meant it when they accepted "collective responsibility" is:

Will they walk the talk? Will they take concrete actions?

We need to ask these questions because their responses in Parliament did not give confidence to residents.

For instance, to show how they keep a close eye on the accounts, WP chairman Sylvia Lim told Parliament that AHPETC's finance and investment committee meets every month.

But the Auditor-General Office (AGO) report noted that as of Dec 12 last year, the last finance and investment committee meeting was held last April, which means the committee had not met for at least eight months.

During the debate, while stating that they accepted and respected the findings and conclusions of the AGO report, the WP MPs offered numerous excuses to suggest that the AGO's findings were not as serious as they seemed.

Most importantly, they said that the AGO report concluded that no money had been found to be missing, that there had been no criminal or dishonest activity uncovered and that at all times the sinking fund monies were still in the town council's bank accounts.

These are assertions that the AGO has strongly refuted.

Indeed, the AGO report had concluded: "Until the weaknesses are addressed, there can be no assurance that AHPETC's accounts are accurate and reliable, or that public funds are properly spent, accounted for and managed."

There can be no doubt that the system that has been allowed to exist in AHPETC cannot continue.

In their speeches in Parliament, the WP MPs promised to improve. Many would recall that they have made similar promises many times before in the past four years to correct the serious shortcomings in their running of AHPETC.

However, the situation just continued to get worse, not better, as their finances declined from surplus to deficit.

WP chief Low Thia Khiang declared in Parliament: "We are for transparency and accountability; we are not shy to support the motion that is critical of us."

But these are just words. The WP must demonstrate its sincerity by taking concrete action. It owes that to its residents.

How housing estates are managed impacts public health, public safety and the quality of life for millions of Singaporeans, not to mention property values.

AHPETC needs to show its residents it will make things right.

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