Sylvia Lim’s Open Letter to Aljunied Residents: Explained

Following the high court ruling last month (27 May), Justice Quentin Loh had rejected the government’s application for independent auditors to check on the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC). However, he also took the chance to give AHPETC a dressing down for managing the Town Council poorly.

Sylvia Lim is attempting to regain trust from the residents, beginning with an open letter released yesterday (11 June). The open letter is available here.

We looked at the letter, and boiled it down to just 6 things that Sylvia Lim wants you to know.

1. The AHPETC did not tender contracts to friends

One main allegation made against the Workers’ Party was that preferential treatment were given to their friends in the public tender for the management of the Town Council. In the letter, Sylvia Lim affirms that the allegation is false.

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According to Chairman of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, public tenders for the AHPETC were not brought to public only on one occasion, between July 2011 – July 2012, where there was an urgent need to establish the Town Council.

AHPETC then decided to award the contract to FM Solutions & Services Pte Ltd (FMSS), which consisted of employees formerly from the Hougang Town Council.

In subsequent years, tenders for the management of AHPETC were made public. But guess what?

No managing agent were interested in the public tender except for the FMSS.

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2. The AHPETC did not overcharge the residents

The other allegation was the AHPETC overcharging their residents in their managing agent service fees.

Again, Lim affirms that the allegation is not true.

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She first stated that AHPETC  was allowed to charge different rates for residential and commercial for two reasons.

Firstly, the previous management agent of the Aljunied Town Council had the same practice.

Secondly, two other PAP Town Councils (East Coast and Pasir Ris-Punggol) operated the same way as well.

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She further questioned the logic of the PAP of using the “weighted average” managing agent service fees of all the Town Councils to compare and contrast with the AHPETC’s managing agent service fees.

The managing agent service fees in all Town Councils are uniquely calculated and cannot be compared so superficially.

She further stated that if the same logic had applied to some PAP Town Councils, residents would find out that they too, had been overcharged.

3. The AHPETC had followed examples from the previous management

Lim mentioned that the managing agent rates used in the AHPETC was adapted from the previous managing agent under the PAP from 1 August 2011 – 31 July 2012.

In subsequent years, the rates of the previous managing agent under the PAP was treated as a reference point for the AHPETC and the FMSS in setting their fees to be charged.

4. The AHPETC is working hard to resolve the issues

The AHPETC had gone through 10 months of independent auditor checks, where lapses and weaknesses have been spotted.

Lim affirms that the AHPETC is working hard to rectify their mistakes and they will need time to fully resolve everything.

They are furiously working away and setting things straight before the coming General Election.

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5. The AHPETC stands alone for now

The theme of this open letter is the revelation that the AHPETC stands alone without a managing agent.

Lim reveals that there is no bids for the public tender to manage AHPETC, and even FMSS did not bid at the most recent public tender.

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6. The AHPETC wants your support (especially AHPETC residents) for what they are going through

” On behalf of my fellow MPs and Town Councillors, I would like to thank you for your concern and support. Despite the challenging political climate, we will continue to serve you to the best of our ability. ”

– Sylvia Lim

WP made mistakes, and PAP pounced on them

Sylvia Lim’s open letter is a rare opportunity where we can consider the position of the Workers’ Party.

The open letter hints that the AHPETC saga is heavily dramatised in the Parliament by the PAP and the situation isn’t so complex.

Nonetheless, the Workers’ Party is not faultless either, as their incompetence is largely to be blame for the saga.

In 2014, when the other PAP Town Councils were shifting towards a flat rate managing agent fee, the AHPETC continued deriving their fees from old market information from 2012 — the same information used by the previous Aljuned administration led George Yeo.

Sylvia Lim also went to great lengths in reflecting that the AHPETC is merely doing what the previous management under the PAP had done, perhaps subtly trying to shift the blame to the previous administration.

This reflects strongly on the inability of the Workers’ Party to derive new ways to handle the management of town councils, and had to rely on outdated strategies from the previous administration.

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Featured Image via Yahoo Sports 
With references from Channel NewsAsia, Channel NewsAsia, The Straits Times, AHPETC