14 May 2013

TCMS — Standard Or Customised Software?

The exchange of words between Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim and Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan in Parliament on 13 May 2013 was a revelation.

When the 14 PAP-managed town councils ("TCs") sold the town council management system ("TCMS") that was jointly owned by the 14 towns to PAP-owned Action Information Management Pte Ltd ("AIM") in 2010 and immediately leased it back, the lease contracts contained a provision allowing AIM to terminate the contract with any TC by giving that TC a notice period of one month in the event of material changes to the membership, or to the scope and duties, such as changes to the boundaries, of that TC.

Ms Lim asked whether Mr Khaw considered the one-month termination clause in respect of the TCMS — a critical IT system used by the TC — was reasonable and would not jeopardise the continuity of services to residents of any affected town.

Mr Khaw replied that standard software to do the job was available in the market, and an organisation (presumably, referring to Aljunied TC) could buy one if it so wished.

Ms Lim asked whether Mr Khaw realised that the TCMS was a customised product.

Mr Khaw replied that TCMS was a big name for something that was nothing more than a financial package.  Every organisation charged and collected fees, and had bad debts, accounts receivable and accounts payable, and every organisation had requirements for financial packages to handle such matters.  He cited his experience with National University Hospital.

Mr Khaw should have read his own ministry's MND Town Council Review Report.

The Review Team viewed that the TCs had under-estimated the complexity of the task of developing the new generation TCMS software.  The TCs had initially tendered for a one-year leaseback contract.  However, the effort to explore a new system turned out to be more complex than expected.  This under-estimation of the complexity of the task led to two extensions totalling 18 months beyond the initial contract.
The 13 PAP-managed TCs (i.e., excluding Aljunied TC, over which PAP lost control after GE2011) recently awarded the contract for the third-generation TCMS to NEC Asia Pacific Pte Ltd for $17.6 million.

Did Mr Khaw advise these 13 PAP-managed TCs to buy standard financial packages instead?  Perhaps, he wanted to apply a light touch and let them do their own thing.  But, what about Sembawang Nee Soon TC, of which he is an elected member?

Perhaps, Mr Khaw has little or no idea what the TCMS (or, for that matter, NUH's financial management software) really does or is supposed to do.

Perhaps, but hopefully not, Mr Khaw was suggesting that Aljunied TC should have bought a standard financial package while waiting to develop its own TCMS, thereby incurring additional costs.

Mr Khaw added that he didn't want to say that Ms Lim was making a mountain out of a molehill.  Perhaps, he didn't understand or refused to understand what many people understood — that the termination clause was the mountain, not a molehill.

1 comment:

  1. Why is the PAP spending millions on its IT systems for its town councils, when it just needs to trot down to Challenger and grab something off the shelf?? Is this wasting taxpayers' money or what?!?

    And why didn't it just go whip something off the shelves when its current system became obsolete? Why go through a tender process, a sale of systems to some company, a leaseback from the company, and now, the ordering of yet another multi-million $ IT system???

    BTW, it claimed all the town councils would save a heart-thumping $8,000 from its complex sale/leaseback plan. The amount of savings was based on just a year's leaseback. Now that the leaseback has gone on for three times that duration, and will drag on for yet longer, are the TCs out of pocket??? After all, they'll have blown all their ''savings'' - taxpayers' money btw - on oodles more months of leaseback. No wonder the PAP TCs keep constantly and regularly raising service and conservancy fees!!

    The other strange bit is that their rates hardly differ from Aljunied's. Where are all their savings from having bulk orders??!! Worse, for the rate they pay, the Aljunied guys are getting more bang for their buck than those in PAP constituencies. No wonder people joke the PAP is all about Pay and Pay....