KENNETH JEYARETNAM: The Reform Party Singapore is concerned by news* that the General Manager of Ang Mo Kio (AMK) Town Council, Mr. Victor Wong, has been under investigation by the CPIB for alleged corruption since September 2016. The Reform Party contested Ang Mo Kio GRC in 2011 and 2015 which was defended both times by a PAP team containing our Prime Minister Mr Lee.
We are given to understand that the PAP in AMK GRC contracted the management of the estate to a private company, namely CPG Facilities Management Pte Ltd. Further, that Mr Wong is an employee of the managing agent. In other words PM Lee and his fellow MPs in AMK are responsible for the actions of Mr Wong whom they appointed to run the council.
An important factor in this debacle is that CPG Facilities Management Pte Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of CPG Corporation. CPG Corporation in turn represents the corporatization of what used to be known as the Public Works Department. Reform Party takes this opportunity to remind the people that corporatization has become a favourite tool of the PAP Government and is used to confuse Singaporeans and foreign observers alike of the degree to which the state has control over our economy.
Do not be confused: CPG corporation is a wholly government owned entity and Victor Wong is a de-facto civil servant. He is also a PAP grassroots leader who received a Public Service Medal in 2007** for his services to Aljunied GRC. The PM is head of the government as well as the leader of AMK GRC and therefore is not only responsible for Mr Wong’s actions as his direct employer but also in his capacity as the ultimate head of the civil service, statutory boards and government owned or linked companies.
Any effort to investigate the alleged corruption of the AMK TC will be further complicated by the role of the PM in the CPIB. The PM has the power to appoint the head of the CPIB but it is the CPIB that is responsible for investigating allegations of corruption in the Town Council that the PM manages. There has never been a clearer case of what our people refer to as: “ Ownself check ownself.”
Reform Party fears that a robust and independent investigation will be almost impossible to conduct given the clear conflicts of interest and muddied waters. It is indeed remarkable and regrettable that Mr Wong was removed from his position as long ago as September under a shroud of secrecy. Reform Party stresses that the PM and his AMK colleagues must not be involved in the investigation in any form whatsoever. Whilst Mr Wong is being investigated so is by extension, the role of all the AMK MPs.
We raise the following as questions which must be answered by the investigation:
On what date was the PM made aware of the alleged corruption of Victor Wong?
If the PM or his GRC colleagues have known since September or earlier then what explanation can they offer for not informing their residents and the wider public.
What other individuals whether from CPG or any other entity are involved in the investigation?
When can we expect the outcome of the CPIB investigation to be made known?
Are these services being provided on an “arms-length” basis or are CPG providing the services at cost or a discount to PAP Town Councils?
Our Recommendations for safeguarding the integrity of the investigation:
The following steps need to be taken if the investigation is to have any merit and if the PM is to demonstrate accountability to his residents and the wider Singaporean public.
1. Given the allegations of corruption and the possibility that it extends beyond one individual, CPG must be suspended from running the AMKTC in the interim.
2. An independent administrator, if one can be found in Singapore, must be appointed until the allegations are either dismissed or formal charges are bought.
3. If formal charges are brought there must be an independent audit of AMKTC to satisfy the public that a culture of corruption does not exist
The PM must publicly accept that he bears ultimate responsibility for any corruption proven to exist at AMKTC as both the senior MP in that GRC and also as the ultimate head of CPG which is a government owned corporation Town Councils as a political tool.
Ever since Town Councils were introduced in the late 1980s, starting with AMK the PAP Government has argued that the rationale was to have Opposition MPs demonstrate that they were able to run a town council before they could be trusted to run the nation’s affairs. It was yet another way to tilt the electoral playing field in its favour and yet another departure from the universally accepted democratic norms of free and fair elections.
This new wrinkle, like the introduction of GRCs themselves, put the Opposition at a disadvantage because they would not receive the same cooperation from Government ministries, statutory boards and companies as PAP MPs. Voters would draw the appropriate conclusion that they would be penalised financially if they voted in Opposition MPs. It is with regret that we note the Workers Party’s cavalier attitude towards serious conflicts of interest in the management of Aljunied Hougang Town Council, which the PAP has ruthlessly exploited, has helped to cement this perception in the voters’ minds.
Ironically, if the corruption allegations against the AMKTC general manager are proven then it will be the PM who will have shown himself unfit to manage a Town Council. By his own logic, one who cannot manage a town council cannot be trusted with the nation’s affairs.