Town Council Management – What is really at stake

16 May 2013



During the debate in Parliament on Town Councils on 13 May 2013, Parliament discussed the controversial sale of the Town Council Management System (TCMS) to Action Information Management Pte Ltd (AIM), a company wholly-owned by the PAP, allowing AIM to terminate the TCMS with one month’s notice should there be a material change in the membership of the Town Council.

WP had raised this issue inside and outside Parliament as it viewed the transaction as jeopardising the public interest. We could not see any justification for the sale to a third party, let alone a company owned by a political party, of the most critical town management IT system developed with public funds, leaving a Town Council powerless and at the risk of disruption of services.

It is most regrettable that Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan and Dr Teo Ho Pin have decided to distract the public by casting aspersions on WP’s management of the Town Council and on its Managing Agent, FM Solutions and Services Pte Ltd (FMSS). It is disappointing that the Ministry, too, has been drawn into the fray.

Many of Dr Teo’s latest allegations and questions have already been addressed in Parliament or in media statements issued by Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council.

Among Dr Teo’s latest allegations and questions is why we chose to appoint a Managing Agent to run a Town Council rather than hire staff directly as was done in Hougang Town Council. We find it odd that he should ask this question. The reasons should be clear to Dr Teo, as almost all PAP Town Councils have chosen to appoint Managing Agents as well.

Dr Teo also misrepresents my response in Parliament concerning the comparisons of MA rates cited by Minister Khaw. He said that I was “not sure of the unit rates paid by AHTC to FMSS”. I am surprised, as this is clearly different from what was correctly recorded in the draft Hansard which all MPs had received by Tuesday 14 May. What was clearly reflected in Hansard was that I said I needed to double-check the prices the Minister quoted on property units because I thought there might be some errors in the prices that he mentioned, and that we needed to ensure that the comparisons were made on the same basis, that we were comparing apples with apples. Indeed, as it turns out, there were discrepancies between the Minister’s figures and our computation methods, as seen in the subsequent media exchanges between MND and AHPETC.

The repeated reference to Tampines Town Council’s MA rates for 2012 alone is clearly not relevant, since the same Managing Agent quoted a much higher rate for Aljunied in 2010. Whether Tampines is an outlier in MA rates has not been answered.

Discerning members of the public have already seen the clear distinction between the AIM transaction and the appointment of FMSS, and some have even come up with their comparison charts. To summarise, the key differences are tabulated below:

Wholly-owned by PAP and managed by ex-MP PAP members WP has no interest; directors and shareholders are not WP members
Expertise is outsourced Provides professional services
$2 paid up capital $500,000 paid up capital
Accepted single bid Accepted single bid but special audit conducted
Critical TC asset placed in AIM’s ownership allowing one month termination No TC assets placed in FMSS’ ownership

If the Minister, Dr Teo or the Ministry believe there was any wrongdoing in WP’s management of the Town Council, we invite them to make a report to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau or other relevant agencies to investigate the matter, rather than to make these suggestions and insinuations. We assure these agencies of our full co-operation.