When I go onto the Straits Times’ website, news about the AHTC trial is not under “courts and crime” or even “Singapore”, but “politics”. This is weird but probably reflects what many Singaporeans think of the case. (Bearing in mind, the suit was started by an independent panel for the TC, appointed by the WP and headed by JBJ’s son Philip Jeyeretnam.)
The WP MPs exploit this perception in their defence.
Essentially they are saying that they appointed their supporters’ company FMSS without an open tender because the other players experienced in TC management all serve PAP Town Councils and are not to be trusted.
Whether that statement is correct or not, some Singaporeans do believe that these companies might be biased. But even assuming that, WP had choices other than to lie and flout procurement rules.
– Other companies approached WP
Low Thia Khiang admitted in court that other property management companies approached him after GE2011, eager to be his managing agent. Was WP too quick to assume they couldn’t be trusted? And while they may not have direct TC experience (like FMSS), they were experienced property managers. They could have hired staff experienced in HDB town management.
But Low never gave them a chance to tender for the contract.
– CPG was contracted to stay on
The TC’s original managing agent CPG was contractually bound to serve at least two more years, at the same price (lower than FMSS’), regardless of boundary and political changes. Even if CPG was unwilling to serve WP, they wouldn’t have destroyed their own reputation by skimping on services to residents.CPG is and international firm, and their reputation would be important to them. They wouldn’t give that up just for this.\
The contract could only be terminated with the TC’s consent. This means WP could have made CPG stay on, at least for a few more months to give them more time to call an open tender.
-WP had 2-3 months to call a tender
From the election on 9 May 2011, to when WP had to take over AHTC on 1 Aug 2011, was nearly 3 months. Even without making CPG stay on, WP did have enough time to call a proper tender.
WP says that the withdrawal of the TCMS (TC management computer system) forced them to appoint FMSS as early as possible. But in fact, the deadline for withdrawal was extended twice, until after WP got its own system up and running. There’s no evidence that the TCMS was forcibly withdrawn.
– Their own Town Councillors should have been informed
WP appointed their own town councillors, mostly their long-time supporters. The councillors would have bought the explanation about CPG not being trustworthy. They probably preferred to work with FMSS, whom they knew from Hougang, even at a higher price. Why not be transparent, set out the facts before the town councillors and let them decide? Town Councillors after all, are empowered to participate in key decision making processes over town matters.
Instead, the WP dismissed CPG, gave FMSS a letter of intent, and even started paying FMSS before the Councillors met to discuss?
Why lie to the council that they needed to waive the tender because it was urgent?
Why hide from the council the fact that FMSS was solely owned by their supporters?
Why did they go to such lengths to ensure FMSS got the job- what did they have to gain?
WP’s case is essentially “woe are we, we were victims, we had no choice but to bend the rules”. I find that story hard to believe. They admitted in court that they had plenty of choices.
What’s more, if everyone who feels they have the moral high ground to bend the rules, why even have rules in the first place?