AHPETC was back in the black after agent contract ended: Khaw

The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council had ended its contract with its managing agent FM Solutions & Services.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

When "their friends" were the managing agent, the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) was losing money.

When this arrangement stopped, AHPETC was back in the black.

This is what it boils down to, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday, as he urged Singaporeans not to "get lost and drown in the details" of the explanations which the Workers' Party has provided since last Saturday.

That was when his ministry revealed figures which showed how AHPETC's former managing agent, FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), had been "grossly profiteering" off its one and only client.

FMSS made a net profit of $2 million in the financial year 2013/2014, after paying its four owners - then senior officers at the AHPETC - salaries that amounted to $1.14 million, the ministry said.

In the same year, AHPETC suffered an operating deficit of $2 million, the ministry added.

On Monday, when the WP submitted its accounts, chairman Sylvia Lim said the town council had an annual surplus of $1.7 million, if government grants worth more than $7 million were taken into account. The WP is now managing its town council directly, after the FMSS contract expired in July.

Mr Khaw asked Singaporeans to draw their own conclusion from the events.

"Let me simplify the message... The town council lost money, about $2 million a year. FMSS made profit of more than $2 million a year. After the FMSS contract is terminated, the town council is now in the black," he said at the PAP branch office in Woodlands Avenue 6 yesterday morning. This was before he and his Sembawang team headed to Yishun Primary School to submit their nomination papers.

The Ministry of National Development's (MND) revelation has been criticised as being politically motivated as it came two weeks before Polling Day. But Mr Khaw said he did not want to address the timing of the announcement, having already explained it on Sunday, when he said that there was nothing unusual about it.

But it was a point that Law Minister K. Shanmugam did address yesterday when he spoke to reporters after submitting his team's nomination papers at the same place. He is leading a team against the WP in Nee Soon GRC.

"I think they (MND) released it as soon as they received the report," he said, referring to the report on FMSS' accounts from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra).

It was delivered two days before the MND released its statement.

What surprised him was the WP's own shock. He pointed out that the numbers were "something that was always known to the town council so it's not information that would be unknown".

He added that the WP could have dealt with the revelations earlier if it had done more to co-operate with the authorities.

"This is the very information that the auditors had asked for and they refused to give and now I think it's a bit odd to say, how come you released it?'

"In the interest of transparency, they should have released it a long time ago," he said.

WP candidate Kenneth Foo, who is standing in Nee Soon GRC, was asked yesterday about the Aljunied town council issue, but he declined to say much.

The new WP face, who was presented on Sunday, said: "This is in the hands of court, so it's not fair for me to make any comment at this point of time."

The MND has applied to the High Court to appoint independent accountants to AHPETC.

Added Mr Foo, who works in a voluntary welfare organisation: "Our focus is on Nee Soon constituency, and this campaign. So if you've any further questions, maybe you can refer back to Ms Sylvia (Lim) or Mr Low (Thia Khiang), or the WP media team."


This article was first published on Sept 2, 2015.
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