MP to ask House about protecting residents' interests

A pest controller carrying out fogging at an estate. Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Alvin Yeo wants clarity on the measures to protect residents when town councils do not have good corporate governance and accounting practices.

SINGAPORE - The issue of how residents' interests can be protected when town councils do not have good financial practices will be raised in Parliament on Monday.

Mr Alvin Yeo (Chua Chu Kang GRC) is asking the Minister for National Development how his ministry can protect residents when town councils do not have good corporate governance and accounting practices.

This comes a week after Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, at the request of his National Development counterpart Khaw Boon Wan, directed the Auditor-General to audit the accounts of the town council run by the Workers' Party (WP).

Independent auditors engaged by Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council had identified 13 areas as issues of concern, which led them to give a disclaimer of opinion on the council's financial statements for the financial year 2012/2013. This is the second straight year they have done so.

There are four types of audit opinions - a disclaimer is the second-worst, with the worst being adverse.

A disclaimer indicates that there was a lack of proper records and procedures in place. Consequently, the auditor is unable to obtain the necessary evidence to certify the financial statements as either accurate or inaccurate.

Mr Yeo, a senior counsel with WongPartnership, told The Straits Times on Friday that his question was not limited to this incident. "We entrust the town councils to look after the affairs of the estate. All residents - not just (those) of a particular constituency - will be concerned."

Another hot topic to be aired in the House is the shortage of beds at public hospitals, which made headlines in January.

Although Health Minister Gan Kim Yong spelt out measures to tackle the bed crunch in January, Mr Arthur Fong (West Coast GRC) wants to know if his ministry could have taken action earlier to avoid having to house patients in tents.

A new Protection from Harassment Bill will also be tabled.

The wide-ranging law targets both online and real-world harassment, such as cyber bullying and stalking. It will also bring current anti-harassment legislation under one roof.

The debate on the Budget announced on Feb 21 will resume after the introduction of the Bill.