Monday, 16 March 2015

The Flyer: 'What You Should Ask WP’s AHPETC'

Update 19 Mar 2015: Police finds no offence in PAP activists distributing flyers at Aljunied GRC

The distribution of flyers in itself is not an offence in Singapore, the police said today (March 19) in response to a police report that was made on the distribution of flyers at Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC).

“In consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers on the police report made on the distribution of flyers at Aljunied Group Representation Constituency, it has been determined that there is no offence disclosed,” said the police in a statement.


TODAY reported last week that People’s Action Party (PAP) activists in Aljunied GRC were distributing flyers urging residents to quiz their Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament over the accounting and corporate governance lapses committed by Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).


related: Distribution of flyers by PAP activists in Aljunied 'not an offence': Police

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PAP activists in Aljunied GRC urge residents to quiz WP over lapses

Pamphlet telling residents what to ask AHPETC being put on the front doors of residents at Blk 237 Hougang St 21. Photo: Robin Choo

People’s Action Party (PAP) activists in Aljunied GRC have gone on the offensive, distributing flyers on Friday (Mar 13) urging residents to quiz their Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament over the accounting and corporate governance lapses committed by the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

The lapses, which were highlighted by the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) in its audit report on AHPETC, prompted National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan to table a motion in Parliament last month. Among other things, the motion called on town councils to uphold higher standards of accounting and reporting to safeguard residents’ interests.

During the parliamentary debate, PAP Ministers and MPs had zeroed in on the potential conflict of interest - AHPETC secretary Danny Loh and his wife, AHPETC general manager How Weng Fan, are also the main directors and shareholders of AHPETC’s managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS).

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PAP activists distribute flyers, urge residents to quiz WP over lapses

Titled "What You Should Ask WP’s Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council", the flyer – in English and Chinese, and complete with a chart - compared the managing agent rates in the WP constituency with those in several PAP GRCs

It was not stated on the flyer who had come up with the contents. When contacted, PAP Paya Lebar branch chairman K Muralidharan Pillai confirmed that the flyers — which were distributed to units in Kovan — were handed out by PAP activists today. Adding that it was a ground-up initiative by the activists, he said they had nothing to hide and that “there was no difficulty in understanding that (the flyer) was from the PAP”. The plan is to distribute the flyers throughout Aljunied GRC, he said.

He pointed out that the WP MPs had said in Parliament that they would answer to residents directly on AHPETC’s lapses. Adding that the flyers contained publicly available information, Mr Muralidharan said: “Our activists decided to help residents understand the core issues and suggested questions that they may wish to ask of their MPs. Residents are free to make up their own minds as to what they wish to do after reading the flyer.”

Some Kovan residents who received the flyer told TODAY that they were wondering who had distributed them. Nevertheless, a resident who gave his name only as Mr Seah said: “Everything in the flyer is directed at WP. It is quite obvious that it is from the PAP.”

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PAP HENCHMEN DISTRIBUTING FLYERS TO ALJUNIED RESIDENTS TELLING THEM TO FIX WP

People’s Action Party (PAP) activists in Aljunied GRC have gone on the offensive, distributing flyers today (March 13) urging residents to quiz their Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament (MPs) over the accounting and corporate governance lapses committed by Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

Titled "What You Should Ask WP’s Aljunied Hougang Punggol East Town Council", the flyer — which was in English and Chinese and came complete with a chart — compared AHPETC’s managing agent rates with those of some PAP town councils. Among other things, it charged that there was improper governance by AHPETC and that the town council had “overpaid its friends at FMSS by at least S$6.4 million”.

“This is our ‘lost money’. It means we have less money to clean and maintain our estate,” the flyer said, reiterating that serious problems that could affect residents were flagged by the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO).

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Anti-WP flyers: PAP activists should quiz their bosses
It was reported that PAP activists in Aljunied GRC have “gone on the offensive”, distributing flyers yesterday (13 Mar) urging residents to quiz their WP MPs over the accounting and corporate governance lapses committed by Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) (‘PAP deploys activists to distribute anti-WP flyers‘).

The flyer tried to compare AHPETC’s managing agent rates with those of some PAP town councils. Among other things, the charge is made that there was improper governance by AHPETC and that the town council had “overpaid its friends at FMSS by at least $6.4 million”.

“This is our ‘lost money’. It means we have less money to clean and maintain our estate,” the flyer said.

related: PAP deploys activists to distribute anti-WP flyers

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A flyer drop, a political lowblow
PAP’s Secretary General pledging to ‘fix’ the oppositon

I couldn’t help shaking my head when I read the TODAY Report of how PAP ‘activists’ distributed fliers in the middle of the night which bombarded residents of Aljunied GRC with messages against the Workers’ Party.

I still clearly recall the robust parliamentary debates between the powers that be and Workers’ Party over the definition of “constructive” politics not too long ago.  During that debate, PM Lee offered his definition of constructive politics:
  • Politicians must also be subject to scrutiny – but “not through anonymous innuendos and insinuation, especially online, that deter good people from entering politics”.
  • Instead, scrutiny should be conducted “responsibly, through open, direct raising of pertinent questions, and establishing the truth, to prevent incompetent, dishonest or self-serving people from getting into positions of responsibility”.
  • “Certainly, if ever a People’s Action Party MP were accused of making false and untruthful statements, I would get to the bottom of the matter. And if he didn’t do anything about it, I will come to conclusions about the sort of MP he or she was,”
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Fixing the opposition: The Path to Cynicism

Were it that the PAP is as white as snow, such that it has earned the right to judge, then it could measure others against themselves and let the results speak for themselves. If you aren't that white then you only help others see how imperfect you are magnified many times. What for?

Politics here is heading down the path of cynicism. More and more voters will lose respect for politicians. The people cannot be rallied. Hard but right decisions can no longer be taken because trust is lost. You have to be living on another planet not to notice that trust is already eroding. Even the office of President is less well regarded today.

Voting is compulsory here. If it wasn't I bet voter turnout would decline mirroring elsewhere. We are becoming another also run, which we know must mean the death knell for us.

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PAP activists attempt to discredit WP with possibly illegal election advertising

Activists from the People’s Action Party (PAP) may soon find themselves facing criminal charges for breaking Singapore’s strict laws against election advertising. Under the Parliamentary Elections Act, campaigning may only begin after the candidates have been nominated and must end one day before the polls are conducted. No election has been called.

On Friday (Mar 13), residents in Aljunied GRC received pamphlets from PAP activists encouraging them to question Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament regarding allegations of financial mismanagement and improper corporate governance. The WP team, led by Low Thia Khiang, had won Aljunied GRC in 2011 by an 11% margin—defeating the team led by then Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Yeo.

Titled “What You Should Ask WP’s Aljunied Hougang Punggol East Town Council,” the flyer highlights the issues raised in the Auditor-General Office’s audit report of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC). Irregularities in AHPETC’s finances had been raised in previous years in response to audits. However, the PAP has only recently stepped up its criticism of the WP, both in Parliament and in the media, as it gears up for a general election that must be called by 2016. This pamphleteering represents its latest effort to call attention once again to alleged cronyism in the WP.

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What you need to know about the AHPETC saga

Singapore's lead opposition party, the Workers' Party, runs a town council overseeing all the constituencies it now represents, called the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council(AHPETC). In an ongoing saga, the AHPETC has been facing questions over, among others, its management of its accounts, as well as the collection of its service and conservancy charges (S&CC). 

Minister of Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam had directed the Auditor-General's Office to conduct an independent financial audit into AHPETC's accounts. The report was released to the public on 9 February.

What did the Auditor-General's report say? The report found five key lapses in the AHPETC's accounts:
  1. Lack of governance over transactions with related parties;
  2. Poor monitoring of S&CC arrears;
  3. Poor record and accounting system;
  4. Non-compliance with rules on sinking fund;
  5. Insufficient internal controls
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related:
MPs debate "Lapses in Governance And Compliance"
Lapses in Governance And Compliance
Town Council Grants And Surplus Issues
From Adverse-Opinion, Ceiling-Cleaning to Unlicensed-Fair
Paying high salaries to mitigate corruption