At a community event on Sunday (2 Aug), DPM Teo Chee Hean told the media that PAP is looking for candidates with financial and legal backgrounds, and more importantly, “with integrity and the interests of residents at heart”, to run in opposition-held Aljunied GRC.

“We want a team that can look after the town council and make sure its financials are in good order, payments are made and that there are no chronic deficits in the financials,” he said.

“We want to look for candidates who have some financial background, so they can scrutinise accounts properly … and people with legal training who understand what they need to do. You can have many lawyers but you need to do what you’re supposed to do,” he said in an indirect reference to WP MPs Sylvia Lim, Chen Show Mao and Pritam Singh, who are lawyers.

“But most importantly, we want people who have integrity, the interests of residents at heart, and will work hard for the residents.”

Mr Teo also spoke of the importance of integrity in the government.

“This government has always maintained a high standard of integrity,” he claimed. “Anyone who wants to stand for office or hold office must maintain these standards. And Singaporeans should demand these standards. This is how we ensure the system remains clean.”

Clearly, DPM Teo was taking a swipe at WP over the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) saga.

In response to PAP’s accusation that implied wrongdoing on the part of WP’s town council, AHPETC, Ms Sylvia Lim has written a letter to ST Forum in June to clarify (‘DPM Teo snipes at WP over AHPETC saga‘).

In her letter, she said, “Parliament has avenues such as the Committee of Privileges to ensure that MPs’ conduct meets the standards expected. Just because AHPETC did not physically transfer monies into sinking funds from its operating funds does not mean that monies are missing.”

“All town councils are required to be audited, and the audit reports are presented to Parliament for public scrutiny. Whether AHPETC’s contractors are delivering services or not, and the standard of their work, is a matter that residents can assess for themselves,” she added.

“If any town council staff has committed any illegal act or corrupt practice, he will have to face the full consequences of the law.”

DPM Teo should put his own house in order first

There is an old saying: “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

Going through AGO audit reports, it was found that Mr Teo, as Chairman of National Research Foundation (NRF) [Link] dealing with billions of dollars in its budget, should perhaps get his own house in order first before criticising WP’s AHPETC.

The AGO audit reports have revealed that there have been serious lapses happening inside NRF.

In the 2012/2013 report [Link], AGO found that a contract for project management services with contract value of $2.25 million, was awarded via waiver of competition to a vendor without reasonable grounds. NRF had, in fact, selected the vendor based mainly on a recommendation.

There was no evidence that the vendor was the only company which could provide such services and NRF was unable to provide AGO with documentary evidence that NRF had conducted an independent assessment on the reasonableness of the sole quote received.

“NRF had breached Government procurement principles of transparency and open and fair competition,” AGO said.

For the tender for design consultancy services, AGO said that NRF had overpaid honorariums (fees for services rendered by professional persons) to the unsuccessful tenderers. NRF paid about $467,000 as honorariums to three unsuccessful tenderers for their efforts in submitting concept design proposals. This amount was three times the amount derived based on the compensation framework provided in the Government Instruction Manuals.

AGO also test-checked 149 variation instructions issued to the contractor for building works construction and found 108 instances (72.5 per cent) amounting to $5.99 million, where there was no evidence that appropriate approval had been obtained.

In another 17 instances (amounting to $330,900), AGO observed that retrospective approvals were obtained 29 to 260 days after variation instructions were issued.

In the 2014/2015 report [Link], AGO found that NRF was lax in reviewing progress reports submitted by its grant recipients to ensure that the funded projects were on schedule and met key project milestones. In particular, there were instances where the project milestones were not met but NRF had not taken any follow-up action.

AGO test-checked 90 progress reports under the POC Grant Scheme and noted that there was no evidence that NRF had conducted any review on all 90 reports to ensure that the projects were on schedule and key project milestones had been met.

In addition, for 77 of the 90 progress reports, NRF did not take any action when the host institutions did not provide their assessments on the reports, even though NRF’s guidelines required such assessments to be carried out. AGO found two projects that did not meet several milestones at mid-term but no action was taken by NRF on these projects.

Should Mr Teo continue to throw stones at AHPETC while his own government agency, in this case NRF, continues to suffer lapses?

What do you think?

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