What started well for the PAP Government in the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) exposure of the so-called major lapses of the AHPETC in the financial management and governance of its town council has now gradually become counter-productive to the PAP for going overboard in their frenzied attacks of the Workers’ Party on these issues.
In the midst of their massive swoop on the WP, the PAP wallahs simply glossed over the role played by AIM in the whole controversy. The unfortunate situation would not have arisen if it were not for the sudden intentional withdrawal of the software system of AHPETC resulting in major disruption of its management. They faced immense difficulty and despair in the limited time available to re-assemble a workable system in order to prevent a collapse of the administration.
Singaporeans, until now, find it hard to comprehend how three PAP MPs could own AIM (Action Information Management), a S$2/- payout company that bought over town council software for $140,000 when the development cost at public expense totalled S$23.8 million. And this PAP company is used to deprive the AHPETC of the use of its software.
The AGO has either not been aware of AIM’s role in the controversy which is unlikely or for some unknown reason simply avoided giving prominence to its role in it which could be significant. The Ministry of National Development (MND) was tasked by the Prime Minister to carry out a review of the AIM scandal over its questionable purchase by the three PAP MPs but, as expected, the MND reported that nothing was amiss. So quite merrily, AIM could go on with impunity with its nefarious task of depriving the opposition in the use of its software should they find themselves in the invidious situation of taking over a town council in an election victory.
As for the so-called conflict of interest presented by the AHPETC managing agent FM Solutions & Services (FMSS), it was apparently under intractable circumstances that the WP had the unenviable task of appointing it as MA as no other bidders seemed to have the temerity of incurring the wrath of the PAP to venture in. Any conflict of interest seemed to have been more apparent than real as AHPETC Chairman Sylvia Lim had explained that necessary checks had been made before each transaction.
However, whatever factors are advanced in its favour, the AHPETC still faces a transparency problem in running the town council and it is crucial for the WP to convince the electorate, especially the middle ground, that the Town Council in still very much in good hands. There is no reason for it not to be able to restore electoral confidence in the Party in the next GE.
This commentary was written by Yoong Siew Wah, a former director of Singapore’s ISD and CPIB.