WP's Achilles' heel

PHOTO: The Straits Times

The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) issue was in the crosshairs yet again yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is also the Minister of Finance, took aim at the town council when fielding questions in Parliament about the Attorney-General Office's (AGO) report on lapses in several statutory boards and government agencies.

In just five days, at least four senior members of the People's Action Party (PAP) - Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and now Mr Tharman - have weighed in on the matter. Analysts say it is clear this will be a major issue during election hustings.

Political observer Mano Sabnani said the AHPETC issue has been politicised - something the PAP will use to its advantage during the campaign.

"It would want to portray the Workers' Party (which runs the town council) as being unable to run a town council so as to avoid losing more GRCs," he said.

Calling this the WP's "Achilles' heel", Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan said the PAP is taking every opportunity to remind Singaporeans of the town council's outstanding issues.

He said: "It'll be a hot election issue, particularly when the PAP, besides focusing on the kind of national leadership that Singapore needs, has also been harping on the need to elect MPs who can effectively run town councils and manage municipal issues - a clear reference to the troubles at AHPETC."

Silence on PA lapses 'serious concern', says Lina Chiam

Before yesterday's Parliament session ended, Non-Constituency Member Lina Chiam of the Singapore People's Party hit back at Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's explanation of the People's Association's (PA) lapses in the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) report.

She said the silence of the ministers despite the lapses is "of serious concern for the public" as the issue is the lack of accountability in how taxpayers' money has been used or "misused".

"Questions arise as to whether the interest of the public has been compromised as a result of such financial lapses involving up to millions of dollars. A deeper scrutiny of the related issues is therefore necessary and critically lacking," said Mrs Chiam.

She added that the importance of PA in the community is why the "financial lapses... deserve close attention".

She also highlighted that PA started to provide financial statements of grassroots organisations (GROs) to their own auditors only in the past year, but failed to provide those of previous years.


Mrs Chiam said: "While the PA has started to provide the financial statements for 2014, this is clearly belated. This is what an accountable and responsible body should have done many years ago and (it has) an obligation to do so."

She also noted that many of the tendency procurements and training operator contracts awarded by the GROs were without competitive tenders and that there was a need for more "transparency" and "accountability" in such proceedings.

Mrs Chiam called into question the fact that the AGO had checked only 6.5 per cent of the more than 1,800 GROs islandwide.

She said the lapses were just the "tip of the iceberg" as there is a reason to believe that financial lapses of a similar nature might be found in other GROs.

This article was first published on August 18, 2015. Get The New Paper for more stories.