Saturday, December 22, 2012

Before Damage Is Done

Alex Au is a blogger that is firmly in the pro-opposition side of the political divide here in Singapore. So I, like most Singaporeans, take whatever he writes with a pinch of salt. However in the latest case of the town councils’ computer systems being run by a little-known firm linked to the ruling party, I have to agree with him that the issue “has the potential to be a big story, causing enormous damage to the People’s Action Party (PAP)”.

The problem first began when the Ministry of National Development (MND) released its latest town council management report and singled out the opposition-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council with a “red” rating for its handling of service and conservancy charge (S&CC) arrears. The byline from the MND was that the Workers’ Party (WP) was incompetent.

The Workers’ Party (WP), who both the Hougang and Aljunied seats in the last General Elections (GE) in 2011, came out swinging. Chairperson of the WP, Sylvia Lim, released a statement noting the fact that the town council’s audit took longer than expected because of their need to develop a new computer and financial system from scratch.

The statement noted that when the WP took over the town council in the wake of their election win, the WP was informed that the existing computer and financial systems used by the town council would be terminated from 1 August 2011. The reason given was “due to material changes to the membership of the Town Council”. AKA, the opposition had taken over the town council.

Ms. Lim then pointed out that the computer system used was developed collectively by 14 PAP town councils (including Aljunied) over a period of more than 15 months but in January 2011, the system was sold to a little-known company called M/s Action Information Management Pte Ltd (AIM). The town councils then had to lease back the systems from AIM, paying the company fees every month for the usage of the computer systems. Ms. Lim gave details about AIM and noted the fact that the company was dormant.

Since the statement by the WP, a report from online socio-political site TR Emeritus gave more juicy details about AIM.

TR Emeritus reported that AIM had been operating out of an office which it allegedly shares its address with more than 1,000 other businesses and the actual company operating from the address was one KCS Corporate Services Pte Ltd. Then in a second report, the alternative news website noted that AIM consisted of just three people, AIM chairman, S Chandra Das, and directors Lau Ping Sum and Chew Heng Ching. All of whom were former PAP Members of Parliament. Also the company only had a total paid-up capital of just $2, with $1 held in shares by Chandra Das, and the other $1 owned by Lau. To make it even more laughable, this was discovered via the firm's business filing with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

Also it noted that the monthly payments by the town councils would have to come from the residents.

Boy, did the MND stepped into it or what! I find it laughable that a small pothole by them at the WP would become the event that exposed the dirty politics of Singapore. I have to feel for the guys at the MND. I assumed no one at the MND knew about the “arrangement” between the town councils and AIM or else they would never let the WP have this golden chance to expose it this way.

Of course between the Michael Palmer scandal, workers going on strike, the coming by-election, and a school principal being investigated for corruption, this potential scandal reminds just that. Probably to the WP’s dismay, it has not gained any traction with the Singapore public.

For that reason, I strongly suggest to the PAP to cancel the “arrangement” between AIM and the town councils. I mean I feel the residents are in fact paying twice. Once because the system was developed with money provided by the town councils and again now for the “monthly” use of the systems. A system that is now run by a shell company that consist all of 3 people!

Now the last thing you want going into another by-election is ammunition for the opposition to embarrass you, and this is what this potential scandal is; a potential embarrassment. Lucky for the PAP, it has not gained traction yet. No harm done yet. If the PAP is smart, they will get rid of the “arrangement” before it does any damage. 


Anonymous said...

Aiyoh, SL and her GRC team knows about the problem when they took over the TC, since GE 2011.

Asked her to raise in Parliament or report to police/CPIB instead of using all of us to "fight" for her.

Why did she keep quiet until know, and doesn't she knows about the law....

Ghost said...

Since you raised the issue, may I know what law do you think was broken in all this? From everything I read so far, everything seem very legal. It might be an embarrassment for the parties involved but there's a big difference between embarrassment and being illegal.

Anonymous said...

You mean using using public money to develop a system and then sell it to their associates under a shell company for an unknown price without public bidding and then pay this company with public money an unknown usage fee doesn't smacks of an illegal breach of trust or corruption of sort? Also how does a shell company going to provide the necessary servicing of the system.

Anonymous said...

...smacks of an illegal breach of trust or corruption...
Anonymous @ 12:47 PM

14 TCs engaged in an illegal activity and nobody reported to police is impossible in squeaky clean Singapore. Every TC is helmed by at least a Minister in the Cabinet of the Singapore Government. What is the AG doing if even you can see that it smacks of an illegal breach of trust or corruption?

Ghost said...

But that's the thing isn't it? How do we know there's an illegal breach of trust or any kind of corruption? Do we know how much the system was sold for? I mean even the WP dare not say there's corruption of any kind, who are we to say there is.
In fact from what I read, it seem the people involved took pains to make sure everything was legal. In short, they covered their ass. However this won't cut any ice with the Singapore public, that's why I say the PAP need to cut ties between the TC and AIM fast.

Anonymous said...

The elephant in the room is why did the 14 TCs sell it to the $2 company. As we know it now according to Teo HP, it was developed by the NCS and the cost is likely to run into at least 6 figures.

It's has to be a freaking joke to pay someone to develop it for you and then sell it to 3 ex-PAP MPs operating a $2 shell company and then lease it back from the 3 jokers at almost $800 per TC per month! The shell company would recover its cost within just over a year.

What justification is there for this course of action? The 3 jokers from the shell company gets paid for doing sweet Fanny Adams. Reminds you of how money is sometimes laundered. Also as someone has observed the HDB residents paid TWICE for the package. First time to NCS and then to the 3 jokers. Does anyone know what happened to the money paid by the shell company to the TCs? How was it split? And more importantly how much was paid to NCS to develop the package in the first instance. IT is a can of worms.

Ghost said...

It is a can of worms. Ta=hat is without question is illegal? I don't think so because these guys took pains to make sure it is not. Like I said above, there's a big difference between embarrassment and illegal.

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