Saturday, 29 November 2014

AHPETC Found Guilty: Even PAP-Run Trade Fairs were Fined for Non-Compliance

Since an independent judiciary (as accepted by Pritam Singh of the Worker's Party) has found the AHPETC guilty of organizing a Chinese New Year trade fair without obtaining the required permit from the National Environment Agency (NEA), more information has been released on the number of times the NEA had taken action against errant operators.
 
AHPETC Found Guilty
In a surprising turn of events, it was revealed that since 2011, the NEA had taken actions against 16 operators for organizing trade fairs in Tampines, Toa Payoh, Simei, Clementi, Kovan City, Bukit Merah, Kampong Glam, Chinatown, Serangoon North, Rivervale Walk and Tanglin Halt.
 
A objective look at the list will reveal that both PAP-run and opposition-run Town Councils were penalized for their actions to circumvent the law of the land, and that the NEA as a Government agency has been impartially performing their duties. This is in stark contrast to what the Worker's Party has been deliberately doing i.e. to portray the NEA as an agency that selective enforces the law. In other words, according to the Worker's Party, the NEA and its officers should be ignored and their authority questioned.
 
This is a dangerous, and irresponsible, political strategy as undermining the impartially of any government agency endangers society. Imagine if the Worker's Party had portrayed the Singapore Police Force (SPF) as partial government agency that cannot to be trusted. Less discerning Singaporeans may unreasonably take this to mean that they should oppose the police, prevent them from performing their duties and ignore their instructions. If this were to happen, civil unrest would be the result.
 
At the end of the day, being in politics is about making Singapore a better place. Endangering Singapore in the process of being elected is thus contradictory and self-serving. What Singapore needs are opposition parties that are responsible, who abide by the laws of the land, and respect the authority of those entrusted to enforce them. If the Worker's Party will not abide by the law, how can you expect others to respect your laws if you are elected.
 
Vote wisely! Singaporeans. Better the devil you know, then the devil you don't!

Singapore GE 2016: Singapore's Silent Majority Stands-up Against the Vocal Minority

In an increasingly fractured social media environment in Singapore, the vocal minority have enjoyed a field day against the PAP government. Whatever the Government does, good or bad, will be met with an avalanche of negative criticism. The situation has gotten so bad that any outsider will think that the Singapore Government is the worst in the world. Ironically, to many foreigners, Singapore's Government is one that they want for their own country.
 
One tactic that the opposition has used to force the compliance of the silent majority, is through the use of a name, shame and abuse strategy. Whenever a Singaporean speaks-up in support of the Government, opposition supporters will label them a PAP IB, call them names, and then "out" them by posting their personal details online.
 
Singapore General Election 2016 is glad that more of the silent majority are starting to come out and stand-up for a Government that is doing its best for Singapore. No government is perfect, but at least we have a Government that works.
 
If you are part of the silent majority, join Mr Tan Swee Swee's Facebook page Singapore for True Singaporeans.
 
Singapore silent majprity
 
There are two reasons why the silent majority needs to stand-up. Firstly, lies that are repeated often enough will become "truths", and secondly, all it takes for evil to thrive is for the good to remain silent.
 
So fight for the Singapore (and Government) you want. Your country needs you!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Demon-cratic Singapore Quits on the Worker's Party

In a recent post on his Facebook page, Leslie Chew, the author and man behind Demon-cratic Singapore has called it quits on the Worker's Party.
 
Demon-cratic Singapore betrayed by Worker's Party
 
Leslie, a strong supporter of Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim, expressed his great disappointment in how the two not only failed to reciprocate support for his cause, but turned on him instead. To Leslie, this was a bitter pill to swallow as this turn of events only reinforces the belief that Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim not only lack integrity, but also loyalty as they will do anything to further their own personal agendas.
 
The following is a reproduction of Leslie's post ......
 
"I started out making a comic regarding the blue party's latest battle with the white devils over the deficit accusation. When it was about half-done, I suddenly paused.
 
I began thinking that whenever they were being attacked, we have always examined the multiple angles of the accusations carefully so as to have a valid ground to defend them. Usually it is by pointing out the bigger pile of dirt in the white devils' own backyard, as well as their flawed logics.
 
But then, I recall that when my fellow citizen was being attacked by the white devils and accused of the "heckling" that now everyone with half a brain know never happened, 2 of them from the blue party didn't care enough to examine the facts carefully and instead, joined in to attack him. That event left a really bitter taste in my mouth and made me rather depressed for a couple of weeks. I started questioning why do I even bother doing what I am doing (helping to defend them).
 
The disappointment came not so much from the white devils' attacks as underhanded methods are expected from them. It comes from those who I considered to be "on the same side", and those who I have expended time and energy to help defend. And now that I think about it, where were they when I was being attacked? Perhaps I should be thankful that they didn't join in the attack when I was under fire?
 
So my question is, if you are my position, what would you do? Would you bother to continue working on this piece? Or would you rather spend your time and energy working on something else? If you have a moment, let me know your perspective. Thank you."
 
This is one more indication that the end of the Worker's Party is at hand. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Does supporting/rooting for the PAP Government mean that you have to agree with every single thing they do?

Does supporting or rooting for the PAP Government mean that you have to agree with every single thing they do? 

Well, for me, it is a no. There are some of their policies I do not agree with, some I feel they can do more. But, why do I support them?
And also, some suggestions to improve Singapore. This article has 2 parts. The main point is stated in the previous paragraph. Hope for everyone to give suggestions/feedback on this article and help to share it around.
I support the Government, but there are still some areas I do not agree with. These are a few. I will explain the reason why I still support the Gov. in the later part of the article. Or if you are in a hurry and do not have much time to read the whole article now, you can just scroll down to the part where I explain the reasons why I still support them.
NEW CITIZENS: For example, I feel that more can be done when allowing New Citizens in, granting PRs/New Citizenship.
Perhaps, there can be more stringent measures, like only accepting those who are dedicated to Singapore. Many of them are let in too easily, while most are just here for the money, for the fruits of labour of Singaporeans in the past years, to enjoy our infrastructure etc...
Yes, we cannot show that we do not welcome new citizens, or investors. Yes, many of them have caused problems in Singapore - such as overcrowding of Public Transport, competition in education/schools etc.. But, we need those dedicated ones, or ones that can truly help us while minimising the impact on Singaporeans. But, I feel that the number of PRs/New Citizens we are letting in are too much.
There are some who look down on Singaporeans, they are some who always want to be "in front" of us Singaporeans, there are some causing stress in Work/Education. There are some who are just here for the money, and back in their homeland, they have another 'life' there, like another house for investment, relatives etc, and if anything happens to Singapore, they will just run back there, and ignore Singapore. These are the types who should be filtered out, and the interview process should be more stringent, and more on determining who are the ones who are really dedicated to Singapore.
On the other hand, there are also some who really want to help Singapore, there are some who have dedication in Singapore, there are some who really love Singapore no matter what we become. These are the ones who should be let in, and not the ones in the previous paragraph.
I feel that, more can be done to separate these 2 different groups, and letting in only 1 group of them, as this at the same time, can also reduce the number of PRs/New Citizens here.
SINGAPOREANS: Another example would be how I feel that there should be more benefits for Singaporeans, to distinguish us from the PRs/New Citizens.
I am glad that the Gov. is already helping to give Singaporeans more benefits, and less for PRs/New Citizens. For example, when buying flats, in Edusave, when balloting for places in schools etc.. However, these only deter them from buying flats, getting into Education. What I feel can be done is, to give Singaporeans further benefits and less for them, when they are already in Education, already get into schools, already bought their flats.
At work, Singaporeans should be given more opportunities, more incentives, and a significant higher pay than PRs/New Citizens.
In education, Singaporeans be given more priorities, more awards, scholarships, meant only for Singaporeans. 
SINGAPORE FIRST: Another example would be on how I feel that we should not "help build other cities" too much.
I am referring to "building cities" like helping to develop other countries' infrastructure, like Danga Bay, or the ones in China.
We could instead focus more on Singapore first, until our infrastructure is fully developed. I have came across articles about how many Singapore companies have chose to leave Singapore, and move to the 2 developments stated above, as it is cheaper there.
This would hurt our economy, if investors turn to them instead. Companies may choose to move over there, people may choose to move over there, and could result in a "brain drain".
The Gov. has done well in attracting investors, companies to set up here etc.. But developing other cities' would reverse all these efforts.
As a Singaporean, I feel uneasy when advertisments advertising other places as "It will be the next Sentosa" are being published. There is only one Singapore here, and as a dedicated Singaporean, I do not feel happy when there is another "replica" of us being made.
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But, despite these that I do not agree with, why do I still support the Gov.?
I may disagree with these, but can the Opposition do better? Can they fully solve this problem as well? In regulating New Citizens/PRs while not neglecting other consequences, in continuing to maintain good ties with other countries, in carefully planning the budget for the best of Singapore etc.. I have more faith in the Gov. in this, for what they have already proven to us and shown us over the years.
I am confident in them.
The Government has done very well in other policies, plans, and in leading Singapore. I may not agree with the 3 points pointed out above, but while I may not agree with everything, there are much more things that they have done well. Let's not just look at the bad side, instead, look at the good side of them, it is much more. Many people have been complaining about what they do not agree, but they are completely ignoring what they have done very well.
It is not about being thankful to them for their efforts that I support them, it is who I feel can manage Singapore. Both the Government and the Opposition may want the best for Singapore, but it is about who can do it better.
It is not about one side being "bad", neither sides are perfect, but I stress again, it is who has the ability to lead Singapore to a better future.
Running a country is not as easy as it seems. There are many more problems that it seems that we need to solve. Only by solving these problems, can we progress to an even better nation.
When making a decision about Singapore, a new policy for example, many factors have to be considered. Internal and External factors. It is not as simple like just writing/saying it out, then tada, a new policy is formed. It does not work like that.
We need a Government with great foresight as well. One who has the ability to do long-term planning, while not neglecting the present, and vice versa. I would support one who knows what Singapore needs. Many have the misconception that we, Singapore, should "learn from other countries' policies", and we can achieve the same success in the area as them. We are much different from other countries. Our policies have to be unique, and we need to stand out in other to achieve success.
That's all for this article, hope for everyone to read it, and give your suggestions/feedback on it. You may disagree with any point in this article, but please point it out politely. Thanks.
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Posted on the Facebook Page of Tan Swee Swee on July 8, 2014.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Breaking News! Singapore Worker's Party Set to Split

On the heels of their success in winning the Aljunied GRC at the 2011 General Election, news has emerged that the Worker's Party led by Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim is set to split.
 
Breaking News! Worker's Party Set to Split
 
Although Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang were recently returned unchallenged as Chairman and Secretary-General of the Worker's Party respectively, older cadres have openly expressed their unhappiness at how the party big wigs are working to kick them out of the party that they had helped build.
 
In a sign of open defiance, senior cadres (who have voting rights) spoke candidly to reporters (including The New Paper (TNP)) at a coffee shop under the party's headquarters in Syed Alwi Road.
 
The veterans shared how Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim have systematically maneuvered party members, often playing them off each other, to sideline veteran Worker's Party members who had help former party leader J. B. Jeyaretnam build the Party brand. John Gan, formerly chairman of the party alongside Mr Jeyaretnam, has even declared that they were "going to do something in the next election. See for yourself later."
 
According to Mr Gan, the "the younger members are not ready for the party and they think too highly of themselves." Like the PAP Members of Parliament (MP) the WP opposes, the next generation of Worker's Party members are not here to serve the people. They are just here for the power and prestige of being an elected MP. In the end, veteran WP cadres see no difference between the next generation of WP MPs and the PAP MPs. Just like the PAP, WP candidates are parachuted in, despite not having walked the ground, unlike the veterans who have done so for years.
 
Signs of a crack in the WP was apparent when Poh Lee Guan, the former assistant secretary-general, tried to contest the 2012 Hougang by-election as a spare candidate, without the party's permission.
 
Older WP members had previously suggested that Dr Poh, who had been working the Hougang ground for more than a decade, was unhappy at being bypassed by Yaw Shin Leong and later by Png Eng Huat. Following the incident, Dr Poh was sacked by the party.
 
An insider, who claimed to be a veteran cadre, said: "Poh worked so hard and for so many years in Hougang, and Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim, instead of rewarding him for his loyalty, supported Png Eng Huat to become an MP.
 
Even before that, older members were unhappy that another veteran, Eric Tan, was bypassed for the Non-Constituency MP seat. That went instead to a younger Gerald Giam. Soon after, a number of veterans left the party, including Mr Tan, Mohamed Fazli Talip and Sajeev Kamalasanan.
 
Mr Sajeev, a project manager, told TNP that he quit the party in 2012 because he was disillusioned that Mr Low and Ms Lim did not walk the talk and often displayed a lack of integrity. "I asked Sylvia and Low why weren't those who contested as candidates before offered recognition, but to this date I have not got a reply from them," he said. "I was asking only for fairness, not for myself but for others. If you want to make your own people cadres (who can vote for the council), you must also be fair to those who stood for election in the past."
 
When Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang were asked for their comments on the split in the party, they replied in classic Worker's Party style by being vague. Sylvia Lim admitted that the election had been "fiercely contested" but denied there was a rift in the party, while Low Thia Khiang declined to comment when approached.
 
In this writer's view, it is the beginning of the end for the Worker's Party.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Transparency and Accountability Cuts Both Ways - WP Continues to remain silent on AHPECT S&CC Scandal

On 22 November 2014, The Online Citizen carried an article by Teo Soh Lung claiming that there is no necessity making unsubstantiated accusations against Singaporeans.
 
In the article, Teo Soh Lung highlighted that Singaporeans have a right to support any party they want. In the same article, Soh Lung accused the Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee for spreading falsehoods and half-truths online, and went on to say that name calling is the trademark of People’s Action Party (PAP) leaders.
 
While Teo Soh Lung makes compelling arguments, what is strange is that Teo Soh Lung only holds the government to this high standard, but makes no such demands of the opposition and their supporters who deliberately spread lies online.
 
In fact, I am certain that the government does not begrudge the opposition, but only asks that the opposition does not pursue populist policies at the expense of Singapore's future. There is absolutely nothing wrong in being a sympathizer of the Worker's Party (WP). What is wrong is pretending to be independent and secretly acting as agents of the opposition to smear the government. Teo Soh Lung is right that indeed there is no climate of fear today and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, there is also no climate of restraint today. It is now highly fashionable to sip champagne and spout the politics of opposition. But whether that is a good or bad thing depends on what it leads people to do.
 
In the case of the AHPETC saga, the questions raised about the state of financial affairs are reasonable ones regardless of who makes them. This is because ultimately it is the residents (fellow Singaporeans) who pay the price. It is silence of the WP that is sad and troubling. Instead of answering questions about  the real and current state of arrears and finances of the Town Council (something any administration of a TC should be able to give readily because the records should all be there), the WP instead chooses to feed all kind of information for their supporters to raise on the social media to distract from the matter at hand.
 
Once again, there is nothing wrong if opposition supporters want the PAP to answer. The problem lies in the fact that opposition supporters do not extend the same rigor to the Worker’s Party. Like the Worker’s Party, the PAP  also needs to answer to the electorate. This is because, as TSL pointed out, Singaporeans have matured and know their rights and obligations.
 
To date, the PAP has answered all the questions raised by opposition supporters (whether you believe it or not is a separate discussion), but the WP continues to remain silent. Transparency and accountability cuts both ways. The WP's continued silence can only mean that they have something to hide.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Worker's Party "Responds" to MND's Town Council Report - Not!

In a surprising turn of events, on 22 November 2014, Worker's Party Pritam Singh issued what The Real Singapore termed a "WP response to Desmond Lee's cromments" on their poor Town Council performance.

wp press statements on AHPETC
 
TRS' title gives the impression that the WP has been forthcoming in the matter. However, a quick look at the statement will show that the WP has essentially said nothing and has NOT RESPONDED to any of the allegations. In short, the Worker's Party continues to hide and refuses to tell the truth.
  
A copy of the statement is attached below ...
 
"We refer to the remarks made by the Minister of State for the Ministry of National Development (MND), Mr Desmond Lee on 21 November 2014. AHPETC have not obfuscated or intentionally delayed in responding to the matters raised by MOS Lee, but have made it known to the public that we are looking into the S&CC arrears data, and will respond to the query on the financial and arrears situation in due course.

We are surprised that MOS Lee has framed the matter as an issue of transparency and accountability. The Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) has been auditing AHPETC’s accounts, and we believe that MND will make the AGO report public in its entirety when the audit ends."

You be the judge if this is a response or merely a smoke-screen ...

Aljunied Resident Reveals Misuse of S&CC Funds

In a letter to WP's Mr Low Thia Khiang which first appeared on The Real Singapore on 17 May 2013, an Aljunied resident speaks up on the misuse of S&CC funds.
 
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Is the Worker's Party (WP) wasting public funds on an ‘ego trip’ by replacing the existing direction boards erected by the previous Town Council with its own yellow and red ones at the entrance of car parks in Aljunied GRC, asked an irate resident Mr How who stays at Hougang Street 21.
 
Mr How, a resident of Aljunied GRC for 20 years wrote that he was ‘perturbed’ at the Workers Party changing all the sign and direction boards in the GRC after it came to power in May last year.
 
“I have been living here for a long time and the previous boards with blue background and words in white are still in good condition. I don’t understand why WP has to change all of them to its color of yellow and red. Are they doing this to show off to the world that Aljunied GRC is now under WP?”
 
Even the lighted signboards depicting the block numbers of every block were replaced with new ones bearing the colors of WP:
 
Mr How said he called Aljunied-Hougang Town Council to inquire about the matter, but was told that it is within the jurisdiction of the Town Council to change the sign boards.
 
“I don’t understand why there is a need to change everything when they are still in working condition. How much does it cost us? And was there an open tender called?” Mr How fumed.
 
From our understanding, erecting a board of the size in the first photo above will cost between $400 – $600.
 
The Workers Party should explain to Aljunied residents why they have to change all the signboards at the flats and carparks to its color of red and yellow when there are nothing absolutely wrong with the previous ones. Are they spending public funds wisely or simply splurging them on an ‘ego trip’? Shouldn’t the funds be put to better use elsewhere in the constituency?
 
wp low thia khiang business AHPETC contracts
 
From what I understand, Mr Low Thia Khiang might be using his own private company which specialize in printing Acrylic sheets and signage (refer to above picture) to make a huge profit out of these signs.
  
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Editor's Note: This could be one of the many questionable expenses that led to the Town Council's operating deficit.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Aljunied Residents ask Inconvenient Questions

Aljunied residents caught in the middle of the AHPETC Town Council report, start to ask inconvenient questions ...

Fed-up with non-answers from those that they had voted to represent them, Aljunied residents want straight answers from their Town Council issue. The numbers are large, the issues serious and the WP can no longer say this is a “storm in a teacup.”

From Surplus to Deficit: The town council lost $4 million in 3 years. How? From a surplus of $3.3 million to a deficit of more than $700,000. What happened?
Sky rocketing arrears: Why did arrears in Aljunied climb so fast and so far? This is the same pattern that we saw in Hougang now repeated in Aljunied. Nearly 30% of residents now don’t pay their bills. Is this really a “compassionate” approach? How does the town council assess who gets a waiver? How is this “compassionate” for the two-thirds who are forced to subsidize the others?

Murky Agent fees: The AHPETC pays 50% more to its managing agent than neighboring town councils eg Tampines Town Council. Why? Why is their agent so much more expensive?  For the past three years, the people of Aljunied have had many questions. Were the hawkers made to pay for the cleaning of their ceilings? Did the town council call the police on the shopkeepers who petitioned against too many trade fairs held by the council? Why do they pay so much for the husband and wife team who are the managing agents for the town council?
To date, there have been no answers. These questions have been dismissed by the Worker's Party as “baseless”, or blamed on “handover issues.” However, where is the money that the people pay in S&CC  going to each month? How well is it managed?
 
The people of Aljunied deserve answers. The shopkeepers deserve fair and transparent treatment. And it is time the Worker’s Party faced up to the truth.

Demanding answers is not politicization. It’s standing up for what is right.

AHPETC S&CC Scandal - Recap of the Story So Far ...

The Story So Far …
 
Since they have taken over Aljunied GRC, the Worker’s Party has been mismanaging the town council. They are in a financial mess and throwing smokescreens to cover it up.
 
$1 million is unaccounted for in their accounts. Management contracts have been awarded to cronies without a tender. Today rates are up to 50% more than a PAP town council – and they might hit 70% or more.
 
The most recent sign of mismanagement is the big hole in arrears – nearly one third of people don’t pay their S&CC fees. So effectively, two-thirds are subsidizing one-third of residents, who just decided that they don’t need to pay. From a $3.3 million surplus, AHPETC has run down the accounts to minus $700,000 after mingling their accounts with Hougang.
 
Now they are throwing smokescreens – their supporters are saying that the deficit is because they don’t get as much in government grants. This is plainly false. In fact, more than false. It malicious. Deliberately drowning out important questions with false noise.
 
Let’s work through this.
 
The Red Herring of Government Grants

Grants are transparent and objective, based on household numbers and types. It has been the same for Aljunied both before and after 2011.

The annual operating grant, also known as S&CC grant, is allocated to Town Councils based on the number of HDB flat units and the flat types. AHPETC’s grants are lower because they (a) manage fewer HDB flat units than TPTC and AMKTC, and (b) have the lowest proportion of 3R or smaller flats amongst the TCs listed:

AHPETC’s income for FY10 and FY12 was largely unchanged. The operating surplus (which gets transferred to sinking funds) is a separate issue. The only thing that has changed is AHPETC’s high expenditure. As a result, AHPETC’s financial position, compared to itself previously, has deteriorated. This is because its expenditure had risen sharply, when income and resident profile remained the same.

Higher expenditure has nothing to do with the transfer of the surplus.

In FY12, three TCs had an operating deficit: AHPETC ($740k), Moulmein-Kallang TC ($840k) and West Coast TC ($380k).  In FY13, MKTC and WCTC turned in a surplus.

We knew MKTC and WCTC had a deficit in FY12. They showed improvement in their FY13 statements. Where is AHPETC’s? Has spending further increased?

What is more instructive is that the Worker’s Party itself has been conspicuously quiet. Instead the claims are made by its agents, obscuring the main questions with political sabre-rattling.

The important questions have been asked since last year – and till today we have no answers.

Why So Quiet WP?

In May 2013, we wanted answers on the poor performance of FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), the managing agent for the WP Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC). FMSS is a company set up four days after the WP won Aljunied in the 2011 elections and owned by a husband and wife who are WP party faithful.

To date, the town council has given away more than $26 million of public funds in contracts to these supporters - $5.2 million of this was handed over without a tender. In addition, it paid significantly higher management fees, when compared to the previous managing agent and to other town councils.

Ms Lim suggested that the higher price could be due to inflation. Really? Inflation in Aljunied is 50% higher than in Tampines?

During the debate in Parliament, Ms Lim issued a statement to explain the MA rates. Her estimate of the MA rate for FY2012 was $7.58 (more than 50% higher than the Tampines rate of $4.99). At $7.58, the MA contract value for the whole estate for 3 years is $15.8 million. But Ms Sylvia Lim had declared to HDB last year that the contract value was $16.8 million.

Where did the missing $1 million go? Ms Lim said that this was because the MA rates were “staggered”. So, does this mean they are going to rise by $1 million next year? She refuses to give a clear answer.

Perhaps the question is better answered by Danny Loh and How Weng Fan, the husband and wife who own FMSS. They were assentor and proposer for the WP team of candidates who contested in Ang Mo Kio GRC in 2006 General Election. They are the secretary and deputy secretary/general manager of the AHTC. Are they also the beneficiaries of the first $5.2 million contract, given to FMSS to manage AHTC without a tender? Are they profiting from the very high management fees paid by the town council, funded by the residents of Aljunied? Are they paid twice – once as employees and again as owners of FMSS?

Is the Worker’s Party using residents’ money to reward WP supporters? These questions remain unanswered.
What are you hiding WP? But we must continue to ask them these difficult questions. If the Town Council is inefficient, or they are inexperienced, these can be forgiven. But mismanagement and continued hiding of crucial information on town council affairs – this is far more serious.
The AHPETC collects more than $3 million in SC/C each month. We have to ask questions – no matter how inconvenient - about where this money is going.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

SG Leaks: Interview with a former Town Council General Manager

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, SG Leaks managed to speak to a former General Manager (GM) of a PAP Town Council. When asked to comment on the various issues raised by The Real Singapore and The Online Citizen about the on-going debate over AHPETC and the Town Council Management Report, the former GM gave us his views …
 
1. “Requiring the transfer of surplus funds to the Sinking Fund makes it difficult for the opposition to run their Town Councils and this is what caused AHPETC’s deficit.”
 
Yes, it is true that the Town Council Act requires this transfer. All Town Councils have to transfer their accumulated surplus to their sinking fund after an election. The sinking fund is no different from the sinking fund in condominiums, which could be used to pay for their own major repair and repainting work. This is different from the operating surplus, where is it equal to the income minus expenditure for any particular year.
 
Operating surplus = Income – Expenditure
 
2. “Why is there a deficit in AHPETC in FY2012?”
 
Well, if you look at FY2010, Aljunied’s income - expenditure = $3.3m surplus. In FY2012, after merging with Hougang, income – expenditure = $734,000 deficit. Since the annual S&CC income remained largely unchanged (and of course not considering the high S&CC arrears), the deficit is likely due to sharp increase in its annual expenditure. This means they were spending more in FY12 compared to FY10. For example, they could be paying more to their Managing Agent, which I was told was a lot higher than any other Town Councils. From insider, I was told the Managing Agent was their own friends, and there was no tender process for this.
 
3. “That Opposition wards get less MND grant, and PAP wards get disproportionately more, so blatantly unfair.”
 
This is an utter lie. The amount of grants that a ward receives is quite fixed. From my knowledge, it is based on the number HDB dwelling units and the type of flats. For example, a 1-3 room flat will get higher grant as compared to larger flats. Since the profile of residents living in Aljunied has not changed significantly after 2010, the grant should be about the same.  It is sad that TRS has misquoted figures using the electoral base as the basis to determine S&CC grants.  Because the S&CC grants is only given to HDB flats. If the electoral base was used as the basis, MND would be subsidizing private property owners.
 
4. “That PAP wards have large deficits too.”
 
I think that we need to be clear on how deficits or surpluses are reported. Unless a Town Council has been run well for several years and hence has access to past surpluses, all Town Councils will incur deficits before S&CC grants. It is thus a misconception that income from resident’s S&CC is sufficient to run and manage a Town Council. Without government subsidies (that average 40%), no Town Council can survive. The main point is compare how much surpluses (if any) a Town Council has after subsidies.
 
Thus, while TRS and TOC would like your readers to think that the issues with regards to AHPETC are caused by the PAP (and the MND) trying to fix the Worker’s Party, the truth is that poor management and possible misappropriation of public funds is the cause.
 
Being intimately familiar with the running of a Town Council, industry talk is that the AHPETC’s arrears rate is high because the Town Council wants to be popular with their residents. In my former role as the GM, I always struggle with balancing exercising empathy for individuals facing financial hardships, with the need to ensure that I have sufficient cash flow to run my Town Council well for the rest of my residents.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Worker’s Party Silence on AHPETC Proves Lies on The Real Singapore (TRS)

As Alexander Pope once said, “a little learning is a dangerous thing”. And this is precisely why the people behind The Real Singapore (TRS) continue to be at the fringe of Singapore politics as no credible opposition party would ever want them within their ranks.

Lies by The Real Singapore about S&CC Grants

In their latest series of attacks on the Government, TRS has purportedly found evidence to prove that the Government is “fixing” the Worker’s Party (WP). TRS asserts that based on their “research”, AHPETC which has an electoral base of 202,326 only receives $7.27 million in S&CC grants, while the smaller Tanjong Pagar which has an electoral base of 137,464 received $13.45 million.

What TRS did not know (or deliberately chose not to know), is that S&CC grants are based on the number of HDB flats and flat types and not on the number of people living in the electoral boundary. Simple logic will tell you that S&CC grants, meant to help ease the financial burdens of citizens living in HDBs, cannot be based on the number of people but on the number of homes it is meant to subsidize. The Real Singapore would have known if they had been as meticulous about gathering facts as they were about attacking the Government. In fact, all this information about how S&CC grants are allocated is readily available at www.towncouncils.sg

For the quick reference of our readers, the following is an extract from the website …

“The annual operating grant, also known as S&CC grant, is allocated to Town Councils based on the number of HDB flat units and the flat types. Smaller flat types get higher grants. The grant enables TCs to subsidise the S&CC for residents living in 4-room and smaller flats, with more being allocated for 1-room ($33.70 per month), 2-room ($26.20 per month) and 3-room ($17.00 per month) households. The grant for each 4-room household is $9 per month.”

The Truth

Based on the above rates (which have remained constant both before and after the lost of the Aljunied GRC to the WP, AHPETC’s grants are lower simply because they (a) manage fewer HDB flat units than Tanjong Pagar Town Council, and (b) have the lowest proportion of 3R or smaller flats amongst the Town Councils mentioned in TRS Facebook 18 November 2014's post.


AHPETC S&CC Grants Aljunied

It will surprise TRS to learn that the PAP does play by the rules and there is no conspiracy to fix the Worker’s Party. In fact, if the PAP was fixing the Worker’s Party, why is Sylvia Lim or Low Thia Khiang not challenging the Government on the amount of S&CC grants they are receiving? If the WP, as the true voice of the opposition, have not cried foul, why would the self-appointed political wannabes do so? Perhaps, the WP’s silence means that there is no basis to the wild accusations that the likes of The Real Singapore is making.

Real Matter at Hand – Management of Public Funds

In fact, as the AHPETC’s annual S&CC income has remained largely unchanged (without factoring S&CC arrears), AHPETC’s annual expenditure has clearly risen sharply. This means that AHPETC has spent more in FY12 compared to FY10.

While higher expenditure is not necessarily a bad thing, if the Town Council can live within their means, the increase in expenditure must result in better service. Unfortunately, one only needs to look around AHPETC and one can see that it has not.

If higher S&CC has not resulted in better service, then the question is whether the higher expenditure was a result of overpaying the Managing Agent (MA). From what has been widely reported and acknowledge by the Worker's Party, the MA for AHPETC is being paid close to 3 times what PAP's MA are being paid.

In short, AHPETC's higher expenditure has nothing to do with the transfer of the accumulated surplus. The real matter at hand, is how AHPETC has managed the public funds it has access to, and whether there has been any criminal breach of financial responsibilities.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

SG Leaks: Town Council Act, Toothless by Design

In response to Bertha Henson's questions (on her blog Bertha Harian) about: (a) why the Government has not acted when the AHPETC did not (or chose not to) submit reports on its S&CC fees for more than a year; and (b) whether there was a trigger point or legislation for the Government to step in short of AHPETC going bankrupt, senior government official spoke to SG Leaks on the condition of anonymity.
 
The official shared the following perspective ...
"The Town Council Act is admittedly an act that was crafted by design to be toothless so as to give the elected Members of Parliament (MP) autonomy to run their wards as they saw fit. This was a deliberate decision taken in complete knowledge that it may not be good governance regardless of which party runs the Town Council. Nonetheless, as the electorate wanted an opposition party in Parliament, the Government of the day gave citizens what they wanted. And, as nothing impacts the electorate more directly then the environment they lived in, the politicalization of the Town Councils occurred. With the Town Councils now run by their elected MPs (PAP or otherwise), the electorate could hold their elected MP directly responsible for their livelihood and in a sense live with the result of the choices."
The official further elaborated that the public's na├»ve belief that every civil servant is a PAP supporter has also hindered the Government's ability to act. In view of the political nature of the Town Councils, even if the Government wanted to act, there is the fear that the public would only view it as the PAP "fixing" the opposition. A good example being the ongoing court case between AHPETC and the NEA over a simple permit for a trade fair.
 
Ironically, there are many in Government who want to act to protect the interests of Singaporeans living in Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East, but are being hindered by fear of how it will be perceived. The sooner the public perceives the Government as being impartial, the better we can do our jobs.

Friday, 14 November 2014

AHPETC S&CC Scandal: Sylvia Lim Plays Hide and Seek with Reporters

As the AHPETC S&CC scandal deepens, the Worker’s Party seems to be in crisis control mode. Sources close to SG Leaks have revealed that Ms Sylvia Lim and her team have been playing hide and seek with reporters eager to hear their side of the story.
 
AHPETC S&CC scandal sylvia lim responds
 
The following are some of what Sylvia Lim said and what the truth is
What Sylvia Lim Said …
  The Truth ...

“In order to get the arrears reports into the format MND required, our staff needed to spend time doing manual sorting and counting. Given the multiple demands, our finance team had to prioritize - the audit by our commercial auditors in 2013 and then the AGO audit in 2014.”

- All Town Councils report their S&CC arrears rate on a monthly basis using a simple table. The table has only 2 fields, one stating how many households owed S&CC and the other for how long.

- AHPETC had been submitting their monthly S&CC arrears report using the standard format until Apr 2013.
 

“As for not submitting statements, the AHPETC finance team is strapped preparing documents for the AGO audit. This has delayed AHPETC’s own audit, and MND has been informed of this delay.”

- AHPETC had stopped submitting the required monthly S&CC arrears report to MND after Apr 2013. This was many months before the AGO audit, which started only in Feb 2014.
 

“We have been transparent and open to scrutiny.”

- Ms Sylvia Lim and her team have been unreachable to the media. The press has had to wait outside their offices and Meet The People Sessions to catch them.

- When cornered, Ms Sylvia Lim and her team refuses to answer any questions.

- Occasionally, usually very late at night, Ms Sylvia Lim and her team will made a short statement and then refuse to take questions or allow for clarifications of facts.
 

 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Aljunied Resident's Open Letter to Sylvia Lim

Subject: Corporate Governance in Aljunied, or lack thereof
 
Dear Ms Lim,
 
I am an accountant and I live in Aljunied.

The Worker’s Party took over the town council in Aljunied in 2011. You are a small party, and it is the first time that you had won a GRC. I know it’s not easy to take over something so big, so I was prepared for some slip ups in service. Maybe cleanliness will drop. But money must be taken seriously.

Today, I can see that there is something very wrong. Those of us who pay S&CC are subsidizing those who don’t – most people realize from the numbers that the two-thirds who pay are subsidizing the one-third that are not.

But there is a deeper story that the numbers are telling. From MND's Town Council Management Report, arrears in Aljunied climbed from 2.6% in 2010 to 8.4% in 2011 after merger with Hougang TC. At the end of April 2013, it was a staggering 29.4%! The national norm is just 3%. This shows that you are likely taking the money from Aljunied and using it to cover the hole in Hougang. What makes matters worst, is that the hole is also getting bigger because they are not collecting money properly.

I read in Zaobao that Mr Low Thia Khiang says there is no need to worry about arrears. This is the same problem that he had in Hougang. He says, don’t worry residents will pay up. Take the compassionate approach, give them time. In the meantime, it is business as usual. But that’s not how he solved the problem in Hougang! He solved it by taking the fat cow of Aljunied, and slaughtering it to feed the big hole in his own ward. Before merging with Hougang, Aljunied had $3.3 million surplus – within two years, it had a deficit of $734,000.

How did it burn up $4 million in two years?!

The deficit numbers are those for 2011. God knows what they are today. I actually can’t see very much of what is going on in Aljunied.  I read that AHPETC refuses to file its mandatory report on arrears. But it’s likely that with Aljunied, we will have an even bigger hole.

A few years down the line, who is going to cover the Aljunied hole? We know that more than $20 million is unaccounted for in the town council accounts, project management fees are paid, and conservancy fees are written off. WP’s own auditors have refused to sign off on the accounts. That’s why the Finance Minister asked the Auditor General to go through the 2012 accounts.

The Workers’ Party says there are “takeover issues”. I understand the politics (I don’t really follow politics but I understand that there are political arguments), but as an accountant, I want to ask:

1. Why are the S&CC collections so bad? The other opposition run town councils do not have this problem. And why did the numbers drop so badly after the merger with Hougang? Is it because Aljunied is plugging the leak in Hougang?

2. Your surpluses have dropped from plus $3.3 million to minus $734,000. Why did this happen? Did the town council lose $4 million in two years? Why didn’t they pay into the sinking funds?

3. What are the processes in place for arrears? I am ok with people in difficulty getting some slack, but surely this cannot be 16,000 households! It’s not fair that 39,000 of us are taking care of these 16,000 – and not getting any information about why they don’t have to pay. Does the Town Council have some kind of welfare committee that assesses these people? Or they just don’t care who doesn’t pay?

Maybe I am wrong to just look at the numbers. Maybe there are larger issues at play. But I think we have to recognize that there is an issue of governance. You can’t just say “Ok, this is the price we have to pay for politics.”

These are questions that the media, the PAP MPs and even members of the public should be asking. But I know that many people, even the Straits Times, are scared of questioning the Worker’s Party nowadays. Try it and you see all the online people scolding you.

But numbers don’t lie.
 
As we tell our clients, accounting is difficult. But accountability is simple. You either did the right thing, or you did wrong.

Facts I have found from Internet ...

1. The WP town council is managed by FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), a company set up four days after the WP won Aljunied in the 2011 elections. FMSS is the “managing agent” (MA) and is owned by a husband and wife team, both strong supporters of WP

2. The town council has given away more than $26 million in contracts to them - $5.2 million without a tender. This MA is paid 50% more than PAP town councils – and this year, the rates might hit 70% more. So they pay more but they are very bad at collection in S&CC.

3. During the debate in Parliament, you, the chairman of the town council explained the managing agent rates. Her estimate of the MA rate for FY2012 was $7.58 (more than 50% higher than the Tampines rate of $4.99).  At $7.58, the MA contract value for the whole estate for 3 years is $15.8 million. But Ms Lim, you had declared to HDB that the contract value was $16.8 million.

Accounting is difficult. But accountability is simple. You can’t take money in Aljunied and use it to cover the hole in Hougang. Who is going to cover Aljunied next year?

I look forward to hearing your reply.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Low Thia Khiang, AHPETC S&CC and Financial Difficulties

Low Thia Khiang does not deny that Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) is poorly run and is in financial difficulty!
 
Commenting on the recently released Town Council Management Report for 2013, where his AHPETC received red bands for the management of service and conservancy charges (S&CC) arrears and corporate governance, Worker's Party chief Low Thia Khiang assured his residents that even with as much as 30% of residents not paying their S&CC, there would be no impact on theor Town Councils operations and services.
 
AHPETC S&CC Arrears
 
The Town Council Management Report, released on Tuesday, showed that at end-April last year, AHPETC’s S&CC arrears rate was at 29.4%. What this means is that 39,000 households in AHPETC were effectively subsidizing 16,000 households who could not, or would not, pay their S&CC.
 
What is surprising to observers is the fact that Mr Low, did not deny the figures but instead focused on reassuring residents that AHPETC operations would not be affected. Mr Low is in effect telling his residents that the Town Council run by the Worker’s Party does not need money to operate.

AHPETC S&CC Arrears

 
Publicly available financial statements show that the Hougang Town Council, which had an S&CC arrears rate of 7.8 per cent in FY 2010, was in financial deficit (they had a net operating deficit of about S$92,000). The Hougang Town Council only managed to avoid cash flow problems after it merged with the Aljunied Town Council after General Election 2011. Before the merger, the Aljunied Town Council had an operating surplus of S$3.3 million, but since the merger, the merged AHPETC’s financial position has deteriorated rapidly and now had an operating deficit of S$734,000 in FY2012.
 
Observers are now waiting to see how much longer the AHPETC can operate without paying their vendors, contractors and suppliers. Using past expenditure as a projection, the AHPETC is likely in debt to the tune of no less than $4.73 million and that is assuming the lower rate of S&CC arrears of less than 10%. The actual amount is likely to be much more.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Worker’s Party Admits as Fact that the Singapore Judiciary is Independent

Worker’s Party (WP) admits as fact that the Singapore Judiciary is Independent ...

Singapore's independant judiciary workers party

The issue judicial independence was raised in parliament on 4 November 2014. This was in response to the government’s decision to amend the Constitution to pave the way for the short-term rehiring of retired judges as Senior Judges.
 
In their opposition to the amendments, opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) Pritam Singh and  Sylvia Lim (both practicing lawyers) admitted as fact that the Singapore judiciary is independent from government interference. In so doing, the Workers’ Party has conceded a fundamental proposition of all anti-government supporters that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has unfretted powers to do as they please.
 
With the judiciary acting as a check and balance, the PAP regardless of their intentions has to play by the rules. If the PAP is in breach of any laws, then the PAP and its members will be held accountable.
 
Many have wondered why opposition parties like the Worker’s Party, the National Solidarity Party and the Singapore Democratic Party have remained conspicuously silent on the defamation suit by Mr Lee Hsien Loong against Roy Ngerng. This is because, the opposition parties know that the judiciary will remain impartial and rule according to the laws of the land. The fact that Mr Lee is the Prime Minister is a moot point as the law will be interpreted fairly.