AHTC's financial position healthy: WP's Pritam Singh

Aljunied GRC incumbent the Workers' Party has addressed a major issue on voters' minds — the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) saga.

In a constituency political broadcast on Friday (July 3), party chief Pritam Singh said: "The financial position of AHTC today is healthy.

"The town council has steadily built up its operating fund position since WP's current term started in late 2015."

According to him, the latest audited figure recorded an accumulated surplus of $7.9 million, which was more than double the amount when the party took over from the previous Aljunied Town Council in 2011.

"Last year, AHTC's financial statements were given a clean and unqualified opinion. The Ministry of National Development also graded AHTC's Corporate Governance with a Green banding," he added.

A spotlight was cast on the governance of the town council after a civil suit was initiated in 2017.

Last October, Singh, party chairman Sylvia Lim and former secretary-general Low Thia Khiang were found liable for damages suffered by AHTC.

Under their watch, the town council paid at least $33.7 million to managing agent FM Solutions & Services from July 2011 to July 2015.

The co-owners of FMSS were found to be staff of the town council in 2015.

Lim and Low were found to have breached their fiduciary duties towards AHTC by hiring the managing agent company without calling for tenders.

In January, the pair's power in making financial decisions at the town council was restricted, following an order from the Ministry of National Development, which oversees town councils.

Ex-NCMP Gerald Giam highlights limitations of role

PHOTO: YouTube/CNA

In the same broadcast tonight, Gerald Giam touched on the topic of non-constituency MPs.

Giam said: "I have been an NCMP before and I know the limitations of that position. Without constituents to serve and a town to manage, it's hard to establish a base."

From the next parliament, NCMPs will have the same voting rights as MPs, after an amendment was made to the scheme in 2016.

The 42-year-old, who contested and lost in East Coast GRC in 2015, went on to work the ground in the nearby Fengshan SMC for the next four years. However, the SMC has been reabsorbed into the GRC.

In his preparation for running in Aljunied GRC, Giam has been covering the duties of Low over the past few months and he noted the difference between an MP and NCMP.

"This has allowed me to walk the ground, familiarise myself with the constituency, and get to know many residents, in ways I could not when I was an NCMP," he explained.

Giam urged voters not to be swayed by the People's Action Party's argument that it's unnecessary voting for the Opposition as the NCMP scheme ensures their voices are heard in Parliament.

"Parliament is not just a talk shop where MPs make speeches. It exists to make laws, which are voted on by MPs," he reminded Singaporeans.

lamminlee@asiaone.com