Category: Current Affairs
Published on Monday, 01 August 2016 00:00
Written by Shawn Danker
Well, it finally happened.
We're finally seeing some movement on the Town Council Act after the G missed its earlier March 2015 deadline. National Development Minister Lawrence Wong recently went on the record to state that the legislation to amend the Act will be tabled by the end of the year.
Why has there been a delay you ask?
The original cabinet member, Mr. Lee Yi Shyan, the former Minister of State for National Development, was tasked to review the Act had stepped down from cabinet. The former Minister for National Development, Mr. Khaw Boon Wan, moved on from MND to take over the transport portfolio. I suppose there may have been more pressing matters on the national agenda that demanded our attention over a leaky legislation that dictated how town councils are managed.
As a result, the country's been stuck between being entertained and apathetic (depending on which end of the schadenfreude spectrum you are on) through the back and forth bickering between the PAP and the WP. The PAP's essentially accused the WP of criminal behavior, hypocrisy and a general lack of transparency but has made no concrete move against the blues aside from talking.
Minister Shanmugam stirred up matters with his latest statement over the AHTC saga which you can read here. This has lead many people to ask: If something criminal did indeed take place over at Aljunied/Hougang, why hasn't the law stepped in? How come no one is going to jail?
The answer to those two questions is a little complicated. The entire AHPETC, now AHTC saga, has degenerated into such a mess that the general public has probably lost sight of the big picture behind the town council saga. There are regulations that will kick in if something happened that breached company reporting procedures. But presently MND can't step in to do anything to deal with a wayward town council. This is because the Town Council Act basically gave MPs an almost free reign to run town councils. What makes this worse is the fact that the law is unclear over who has enforcement powers: MND or the Housing board.
Presently with how the law stands, the only ones who can hold a town council to account are its residents who vote during every election. Last year, the WP lost Punggol East and had slimmer margins for Aljunied GRC and Hougang. Was the lower margin a wake up call for the WP?
I'm not too sure.
But I am pretty sure that the AHTC saga has made enough residents in WP contested wards to reconsider voting for the party during the GE.
I'm also pretty sure that the party's junior members, the unelected ones who've been doing ground work for their own contests, are getting more and more antsy about the continuing bad news surrounding the town council's accounting. To them, it must feel like the proverbial noose is tightening around the party's leadership whenever KPMG makes a new announcement about its findings from the ongoing audit of AHTC's books.
KPMG isn't finished with its work yet. Its final report is due at the end of August. Maybe that is why the G said that the final revisions of the Town Council Act will only be ready at the end of the year. The G probably wanted to make sure that the proposed remedies will be able to deal with any scenarios that the KPMG auditors turn up.
We shall see if anyone from the WP will be prosecuted then.