Category: Current Affairs
Published on Wednesday, 02 September 2015 16:37
Written by Belinda
For the first time in our country's history - every eligible voter gets to vote. Since our independence, all 89 seats in parliment would be contested. More is at stake for this GE than the previous as there is the possibility - no matter how remote - that a different government could replace our ruling party and we wake up to a Singapore that's not ruled by the PAP.
Some may rejoice at this prospect - but I shudder to think of the consequences. Singapore has achieved much during the years under PAP's stewardship. I'm proud of the brand name our country carries amongst the world nations. While we may be a small dot, we exert influence way beyond our size. Investments, businesses and career opportunities abound and we've got many things to be thankful for: a green city with wonderful parks, low-crime rate, little unemployment, an excellent education system, a healthcare system that works and so much more.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a die-hard PAP supporter and I do believe in the need for a capable opposition in parliment to be the check and balance, as I believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Which is why I'm so keenly watching the AHPETC incident (reported here by Yahoo news
). I want to be sure that the opposition that is elected to represent the people in parliment be persons of integrity and held accountable to higher standards.
This is where I've been disappointed by the Worker's Party performance. In the recent 17 Aug 2015 parlament sitting, DPM Tharman said, "the whole house of AHPETC's finances is unsafe, with many structural defects". The exchange that went on between DPM and Worker's party is well documented and you can watch the full video here
What i find troubling is that WP keeps pointing fingers at the government and playing the victim card whenever a valid concern is highlighted, and in their answers seek to confuse the public or manipulate conclusions by leaving certain facts out.
Example 1: The AHPETC still has not received its operating S&CC grants for FY14 and FY15. This paints the picture that its because of this that they are in deficit and also that they are treated unfairly because the government is against them. The truth?
What actually happened is that the AHPETC made a rather unusual request that the entire MND grants (which ought to be split, going by normal rules and procedures, between sinking funds and operating funds) to go into the sinking funds.
MND, despite the unusual request said that it was prepared to consider this suggestion and had asked for some cashflow information from AHPETC. This is to ensure that if MND does as requested the delivery of essential services would not be compromised. AHPETC has not answered these very legitamate questions.
Example 2: In her second open letter to residents, WP chairman Sylvia Lim said: "AHPETC filed its audited accounts for FY 14/15, on time, by 31 August 2015. Though these accounts show AHPETC in annual deficit, this is because AHPETC has still NOT received its annual S&CC operating grant of $7.2 million from the government, which would normally have been paid to all Town Councils in April 2014. Taking into account the $7.2 million in grant which AHPETC expects to receive, AHPETC’s annual income and expenditure statement would show an annual surplus of $1.7 million."
Again I find this misleading as it again points the figures at MND. It also glosses over the fact their auditor of their FY2014/15 accounts again expressed 'disclaimer of opinion' on various financial statements and that 3 disclaimer points remain unresolved.
As a result, the independent auditors report contained a disclaimer of opinion.
You can access the full report here
Then there is the matter of over paying their managing agent, FM Solutions and Services (FMSS). FMSS made $1.5 million in FY2012/2013 and more than $3 million in FY2013/2014 out of their sole client - AHPETC. For FY2013/2014 AHPETC had an operating deficit of $2million. But when queried WP again deflects the question and says that it’s within the tender specifications. This open letter I read from Germain Heng's Facebook post to WP in response sums it up nicely here
And the matter of under paying where FMSS surprised us with the news that AHPETC owed them $3.5 million
- FMSS had sent the letter dated 20 Jul through its lawyers to AHPETC. But in her usual fashion, WP chairman said its 'old news' - to her maybe but a complete surprise to us all as we've all had the impression that FMSS is overpaid! When queried for details she again brushed it aside in typical non-transparent fashion by saying "its under mediation, supposed to be a private process".
Is this the kind of opposition I'd like to represent me in parliment? I hope not! I've come away from the entire AHPETC saga with more questions than answers, and with more apparent diversions than transparency.
That's why AHPETC matters to me, and I hope to you as well. Vote wisely.