Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 12/14/2012 23:40 | By Channel NewsAsia

Town councils graded on corporate governance in new report card

Town councils graded on corporate governance in new report card


Town councils graded on corporate governance in new report card

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of National Development has released its annual report card for town councils on Friday, highlighting estate maintenance as an area for improvement.

Besides a new grading format, the report has included — for the first time — corporate governance.

Town councils across Singapore are assessed according to the level of cleanliness, estate maintenance and now, corporate governance too.

Their latest report card also comes in a new format.

Instead of getting a score from 1 to 5, town councils are now graded in colour codes of green, amber and red, with green being the best grade.

Except for Tampines, Jurong and Aljunied—Hougang — mainly for administrative and technical reasons related to the General Election — most town councils took the green band for the new indicator under corporate governance

Jurong was given an amber for a delay in topping up its sinking fund during the three months after the General Election.

Mr David Ong, Chairman of Jurong Town Council, said: "Following our General Election last year, we had several projects and we had to pay our contractors. Hence the cash flow going out was quite high. At the same time, we were waiting for transfers of funds from the government, there was some delay and hence (this) contributed to our lapses."

Aljunied—Hougang’s grade for corporate governance was pending its auditor’s report.

When asked, its town council chairman Sylvia Lim said the audit took longer than expected as the audit period spanned the elections, after which there was a transition where the town council had to change its financial system as well as its auditor.

She told Channel NewsAsia the auditor’s report is now being finalised.

Aljunied—Hougang was (also) the only town council to get a red band for its management of residents’ arrears in their Service and Conservancy Charges.

Ms Lim said: "We have actually been issuing notices, even legal notices to our residents (who have been in arrears to facilitate their payment.) At the same time being fairly new to the area, I think it’s also important for us to try to understand our residents’ circumstances. Why is it that some of them have not been making payments promptly. In fact the MPs and town councils have been spending quite a lot of time looking into the reasons."

Potong Pasir was the only other town council to miss the green band for arrears, scoring an amber.

When contacted, its MP Sitoh Yih Pin said the arrears situation was something the town council inherited from its previous management, and it’s something that has to be dealt with a soft touch as it involves the lives of residents.

Town councils did well in cleanliness and lift maintenance this year, all taking the green band.

But on town maintenance, more than half the towns scored amber.

Top on the list of maintenance issues was the obstruction of stairwells, lift landings and corridors. Furniture, or too many potted plants lying around corridors are potential fire hazards. And the report says this is one area town councils can improve on.

Soon the Ministry of National Development will also be assessing the town councils’ financial adequacy.

It also wants to get more resident involvement in assessing town councils’ performance, for instance, through residents’ surveys.

Details of the banding can be found

here

.

— CNA/de

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