The Worker’s Party has to run its own town council in Aljunied Hougang Punggol East from next month because it could not find a managing agent to do so, says WP chairwoman Sylvia Lim.
Last November, WP held a 3 week long tender for a managing agent to come manage AHPETC, but no companies stepped forward to bid. Even existing managing agent, FM Solutions and Services did not participate in the bid.
AHPETC is now looking to hire finance staff, property officers and call centre staff based on posters pasted around its estates. The WP also issued a flier to residents in 4 languages explaining to residents why it had to run the Town Council on its own yesterday.
In the flier, Sylvia Lim denied all charges that AHPETC had awarded managing agent contractors to “friends” to allay fears about how some town council senior officers had vested interests in FMSS.
This potential conflict of interest was among several red flags thrown up by the Auditor-General’s Office’s special audit report on AHPETC. The lapses highlighted in the report were the subject of a debate in parliament in February.
According to Ms Lim, AHPETC had been trying to call for public tenders for a managing agent since 2012. It did not do so in 2011 because “urgent taking-over work was needed” after the elections, hence FMSS was given a 1 year managing agent contractor without competition or an open tender bidding.
The flier also clarified that AHPETC twon council had not overpaid FMSS, also a response to questions thrown up by Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K. Shanmugam, who said that AHPETC had the highest managing agent rates across all town councils. In the debate, Shanmugam claimed that AHPETC had overpaid FMSS $6.4 million over 4 years based on the weighted average of rates paid by other town councils last year.
Ms Lim countered by pointing out that taking last year’s average rates was “not a good way to judge the fairness of the rates”. She says that four town councils run by the People’s Action Party (PAP) saw a “drastic” drop in their rates last year, even though the managing agent remained the same, which dragged down the average rates.
She added that other PAP-run town councils with higher than average rates – such as Tanjong Pagar and Sembawang – would also be seen as overpaying their managing agents.
Ms Lim said AHPETC had largely based its rates on those previously charged by the former PAP-run Aljunied Town Council.