<Blog Post by Ren Choo>

MP for Aljunied, Mr Faisal, had written a letter to HDB on behalf of one of his residents, Mr Ng, about the spalling concrete in the resident’s flat. Spalling concrete is a common issue with older HDB flats. It is a natural deterioration process.

Spalling concrete. Photo source from HDB and ST

Spalling concrete. Photo source from HDB and ST

Fellow WP member, Bernard Chen posted HDB’s appalling response to the Mr Faisal’s letter.

Source: Bernard Chen's Facebook page

Source: Bernard Chen’s Facebook page

From the response, it seemed that HDB was initially reluctant to help the resident with the cost of repair the spalling concrete. This was even though Mr Faisal, the elected MP of the area, had written in them. But HDB eventually agreed to co-pay 50% of the costs of repairing the spalling concrete. This only happened after HDB informed Mr Shamsul, the adviser to Aljunied GRC Grassroots Organisations. Mr Shamsul was member of the PAP team that contested in Aljunied GRC and lost to the WP team that Mr Faisal was in.

The whole series of events is utterly disturbing for two reasons.

First, what gave HDB the right to inform Mr Shamsul of this case? I would have thought that anything that the MP wrote to HDB about was written in confidence. The information that the MP gives to HDB is given with the understanding that it would only be shared within HDB. So did HDB seek the permission of Mr Ng, the owner of the flat, before doing informing Mr Shamsul, who was essentially unrelated to this case before HDB informed him? If they didn’t, isn’t HDB breach the Personal Data Protection Act?

Second, why did HDB only agree to co-pay for the repairs of the spalling concrete after Mr Shamsul asked them to assist? Shouldn’t it be that, regardless who it is who wrote in to HDB, shouldn’t HDB assist so long as the case warrants assistance? By assisting only because Mr Shamsul asked them to, HDB is clearly favouring Mr Shamsul over Mr Faisal, the elected MP.

And all along, I thought that the public service is beyond fear or favour. I had believed PM Lee when he said that the civil service is politically impartial. Guess I was wrong. I guess there are times when our public service does favour certain individuals over another. Especially when one individual is from the ruling party, while the other is from the opposition party.

I wonder how deep this rot goes. How many of our public service agencies are cronies of the PAP? Some? All? As it is, we are ranked fourth in the Economist’s crony-capitalism index, which measures how much of the wealth of the billionaires in Singapore comes from cronyism. I hope that we won’t rank as badly when it comes to political and public service cronyism.

Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps HDB’s actions for this particular case aren’t because it is a PAP crony. Perhaps there are very good reasons why it only provides assistance when the grassroots adviser asks. If that is the case, HDB really needs to come out and explain itself clearly and convincingly – why is it in the public’s interest that HDB should only co-pay for repairing spalling concrete when the grassroots adviser asks HDB to do so?

But until HDB provides a clear and convincing explanation, it cannot blame Singaporeans for thinking that it does not act beyond fear or favour. It cannot blame Singaporeans for  thinking that it is a crony of the PAP and serves to advance the interest of the PAP rather than act for the best interest of Singaporeans.

So, HDB, care to explain yourself?

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