AHPETC – A BATTLE FOR TRANSPARENCY AND IMPROPRIETY

Ng Eng Hen is furious with the poor verdict of Transparency International on how his ministry spent money on the purchase of weapons. TI ranked Singapore together with Afghanistan and Iraq, in another word, our integrity in procurement is at the same level at these 3rd World countries, or at least in the Defence Ministry. The implications of such a rating are very serious, and many times more serious than the audit report of AHPETC.

Khaw Boon Wan had written a letter to Tharman to instruct the Auditor General to conduct an audit on AHPETC’s account quoting a Disclaimer of Opinion from its auditor, implying serious issues in the town council’s financial and accounting system. The Auditor General will now have to comb through AHPETC’s books to verify on all the misgivings and non compliance of Town Council’s regulations.

What we are seeing is the PAP wanting to set a very high standard of accountability and transparency for all town councils. And all town councils will be judged using the same standard of accountability, nothing less. On the other hand many critics are crying foul, that this is another political scam of the PAP to run down its political enemies, probably getting them disqualified from the next GE or, if serious enough, could see some of them behind bars. If this is indeed a political ploy, one can expect the PAP to extract the full mileage possible with the timing of the findings, the penalties and punishment, to ensure the WP suffers untold damage that it would become a lame duck when the GE is called.

Putting this expected and understandable perception of PAP critics aside, the involvement of the Auditor General to audit a town council’s account would set a series of precedents that would then be applicable to all the other town councils. To be consistent and be seen as fair and impartial, and standing on moral high grounds, the Auditor General would also have to conduct the same investigations on all town councils with the same ratings from their auditors or worse, like Adverse Opinion in auditing terms. The opposition parties and netizen investigative journalists in social media must be busy scouring the auditor’s reports for the same gradings to be tabled to Boon Wan and the Auditor General. And should there be such findings, the PAP would now be compelled, or at least Boon Wan would be duty bound to make similar requests to Tharman for the Auditor General’s audit.

Would this high standard of transparency and accountability also be applicable to similar or comparable institutions like the People’s Association? In a Breaking News TRE editorial, it posted an article stating that the auditors had given the PA several years of Adverse Opinions that were technically worse than the Disclaimer of Opinion in the AHPETC’s audit. Why was there no calls for the Auditor General to investigate? All eyes will now be focussed on Boon Wan to do the necessary to PA. Would he or would he not request Tharman to do the same?

With the issue of transparency and accountability high in everyone’s agenda, how far would these issues be pushed to vindicate Singapore’s standing as one of the top nations in incorruptibility? Would there be any other town council fitting the bill for an Auditor General’s audit? Would PA be put under the microscope as well?

For Boon Wan to take such a drastic action, he must be very sure that his own house is in order, ie all the town councils’ audit were beyond reproach. Like the bible said, ‘Let the one who has not sinned be the first to cast the stone….’ We have several embarrassing episodes involving the WP and the PAP when the ball curved back to slam the attackers. Retribution came fast and swift at times. How would this incident turn out and who would have the last laugh?

Chua Chin Leng AKA RedBean

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