Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 12/29/2012 02:08 | By Channel NewsAsia

Sylvia Lim questions sale of town councils’ computing systems

Sylvia Lim questions sale of town councils’ computing systems

Sylvia Lim questions sale of town councils’ computing systems

SINGAPORE: Aljunied—Hougang Town Council (AHTC) chairman Sylvia Lim has questioned why the computing and financial systems developed by PAP—managed town councils were sold off to a third party.

The company in charge of the systems, Action Information Management (AIM), ended its contract with Aljunied—Hougang Town Council, after the 2011 general election.

The disagreement arose after an audit of town councils, which showed that Aljunied—Hougang’s grade for corporate governance was pending its auditor’s report.

Ms Lim had said the termination of the financial systems at Aljunied—Hougang by AIM was one reason why its corporate governance audit was delayed.

AIM’s chairman, S Chandra Das, then countered that it had extended its services to the town council twice, in August and September last year, before the contract lapsed.

Coordinating Chairman of People’s Action Party (PAP) Town Councils, Dr Teo Ho Pin, then weighed in explaining why the town council management system, was sold to AIM.

He also confirmed that AIM is a company fully owned by the PAP.

Dr Teo said there was an open tender and the sole bid was submitted by AIM.

In her latest comments, Ms Lim said both "Dr Teo’s and Mr Das’ statements have been calculated to side—step the most critical question of how public interest was served" when the financial systems were sold off to AIM, which could terminate its contract, if there was a "material change" in the composition of a town council.

A "material change" could refer to a change in the management and makeup of the town council, following results of the general election.

In this case, it was the town council being handed over to the Workers’ Party, which won the Aljunied seat from the PAP.

Ms Lim said Singaporeans have the right to know what justification there was for town councils to relinquish ownership and leave the continuity of operations at the "mercy of a third party" — referring to AIM.

Since AIM is fully owned by the PAP, Ms Lim asserted that the PAP—managed town councils saw it "fit to sell away the ownership" of the computing system, which she said are developed with public funds, to a political party.

She added the political party could then presumably act in its own interests, when exercising its rights to terminate contracts.

Ms Lim added to safeguard the interest of residents, AHTC had worked to upscale the town management system, which was already in use by Hougang Town Council.

Ms Lim said: "Aljunied—Hougang Town Council counts itself fortunate to have been able to leverage the Hougang Town Council system, which had been developed and in use for more than a decade, customised specifically for town council management requirements. If, anything, this episode clearly demonstrates the risks to Singaporeans of having a lack of alternatives in every sense."

In response, Dr Teo said Ms Lim’s remarks do not answer the key question that was addressed to her.

Dr Teo said it was AHTC which stated that it wanted to develop its own system.

The contract he said, was terminated with mutual agreement in September.

"Ms Lim had stated that the reason for the poor performance of Aljunied—Hougang Town Council (in the Town Council Management Review), was due to the termination of the lease for AHTC’s computer and financial systems by Action Information Management Pte Ltd (AIM)," he said.

"She said that extensions to the contract with AIM had to be "fought for". This is inaccurate. AHTC wrote in on 10 June 2011 to state that it wanted to develop its own system. Thereafter the contract was terminated with mutual agreement on 9 September 2011, after two extensions had been given at AHTC’s request. AHTC thanked AIM for the extensions."

Dr Teo said Ms Lim should come clean on the facts.

He asked why Ms Lim had stated that AIM wanted to terminate its contract, while suppressing the fact that her town council had in June last year, written to say that it wanted to develop its own software.

"The question has not been answered by her," he said.

Dr Teo added Ms Lim raised several new issues on Friday relating to allegations of conflict of interest.

He said the issues will be dealt with openly, and answered over the next few days.

Responding to the remarks from Ms Sylvia Lim and Dr Teo Ho Pin, the Reform Party (RP) called on the Auditor General to provide public clarification through a thorough audit of the tender process.

It queried the value that AIM provides as a middleman, and also asked what happened in the other 14 Town Councils when the initial term of the lease was set to end on October 31st, 2011.

RP made the remarks in a statement issued late Friday evening.

— CNA/xq/ac

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