13 June 2013

Balakrishnan, NEA, One (or More) Stall-Holders vs AHPETC — Cleaning High Areas at Food Centres Part II

One would have thought that a simple matter such as the provision of scaffolding for cleaning the high areas at blocks 511 and 538 Bedok North Street 3 could have been resolved rather easily.

But it seems to be quite resistant to common sense resolution.

Invitation To Quote
National Environment Agency ("NEA") released a copy of a quotation dated 19 February 2013 from ATL Maintenance Pte Ltd to Blk 538 Market Association for high-rise cleaning of the entire premises, from 4 March to 8 March 2013, at block 538 Bedok North Street 3.[1]  It included, among other things, the provision of scaffolding by ATL Maintenance.

Why was the quotation for cleaning of the high areas only?  Wasn't cleaning of the low areas scheduled, or supposed to be scheduled, together with cleaning of the high areas?

Why did Blk 538 Market Association invite quotations for cleaning of the high areas, if it was to have been provided by Aljunied-Hougang Punggol East Town Council ("AHPETC")?  Shouldn't AHPETC have been the party to issue the invitations to quote?

Did Blk 538 Market Association invite other contractors to quote?

ATL Maintenance also happens to be AHPETC's cleaning contractor.

ATL Maintenance's quotation was addressed to a Mr Ng Kok Khim, who some say may be linked to People's Action Party.  Why was it addressed to Mr Ng, when according to NEA, Blk 538 Hawkers Association chairman is a Mr Tan.[2]  Is Blk 538 Market Association the same entity as Blk 538 Hawkers Association?

Blk 538 Market Association's invitation to ATL Maintenance to quote for cleaning of the high areas defies common sense or logic and is an absolute mystery.

Email
AHPETC released a copy of email correspondence between AHPETC and NEA.

Why did AHPETC raise the issue of staging/scaffold erection and dismantling with NEA?  If its contractor was carrying out the cleaning of the high areas, it is rather logical that the contractor would also provide, or would arrange for the provision of, the requisite scaffolding.  Why did AHPETC think that NEA was involved?

Why did NEA, after consulting with Blk 538 Hawkers Association, inform AHPETC that Blk 538 Hawkers Association would make the necessary arrangements with its own contractors for the scaffolding erection/dismantling?

If NEA was referring to the erection/dismantling of the scaffolding for canvas to protect their stalls during the cleaning of the high areas, why did NEA not make this clear to AHPETC inasmuch as NEA is fully aware of the need for (possibly different) scaffolding for cleaning of the high areas?

Which Cleaning Contract?
If ATL Maintenance carried out the cleaning of the high areas of block 538 pursuant to a contract with AHPETC, wouldn't AHPETC's site supervisor have noticed the absence of scaffolding for cleaning the high areas and notified NEA?

AHPETC should have immediately instructed ATL Maintenance to provide the requisite scaffolding for cleaning the high areas in order that the high areas be cleaned during the specified period.

However, AHPETC might have opened itself to accusations that it was misusing town council funds because it had believed that the requisite scaffolding would be provided or arranged by NEA or Blk 538 Hawkers (or Market) Association.

What Happened in 2012?
What was the arrangement for cleaning the high areas of Blk 538 in 2012?  Was it different, especially in relation to the erection/dismantling of the scaffolding for cleaning of the high areas?

Who Pays?
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said that there was no reason to charge the stall-holders — honest and hardworking people just trying to make a living — more for cleaning the high areas.[3]  (In the same vein, some people would say that there is no reason for honest and hardworking citizens trying to make a living to pay our political office holders much more than any other political leader in the world is paid, but that's another story.)

He was echoing NEA, which had said that stall-holders should not be made to pay any additional charges for cleaning the high areas since AHPETC collects monthly service and conservancy charges from them.

This assumes that the cost of cleaning the high areas is already factored into the monthly service and conservancy charges.

Otherwise, it is illogical for the stall-holders to think that they should not bear all the cost — in particular the direct cost — of cleaning the food centre, including but not limited to scaffolding for cleaning the high areas.

AHPETC's budget is a zero-sum budget.  If the stall-holders do not pay for the scaffolding, the cost is borne by AHPETC — that is, the residents of AHPE town.  AHPETC is not some nebulous entity where costs that someone doesn't want to pay may be conveniently charged to; every dollar charged to its expenses is paid for by its residents.

Dr Balakrishnan or NEA should explain to the residents of AHPETC why they, and not the stall-holders, should bear all direct costs of cleaning the food centres where the stall-holders operate their business.

In any case, AHPETC has repeatedly said that it had not asked the stall-holders to pay any additional charges for cleaning the high areas.  Which parts of AHPETC's statements does NEA not understand?

Regulatory Obligation
AHPETC should diligently follow through with its obligation to clean the high areas of Blk 538 food centre soonest.

Vivian Balakrishnan
Dr Balakrishnan called on AHPETC to apologise to the stall-holders.  In his view, the stall-holders had been consistent and truthful throughout this entire episode.  Either AHPETC vice-chairman Pritam Singh or the stall-holders were telling the truth; it was obvious to him that the stall-holders were speaking the truth.[3]  This, before meeting AHPETC's chairperson or Mr Singh.

Dr Balakrishnan declined to meet AHPETC until after the cleaning of the food centres was completed and inspected.  Then, he would invite Mr Low Thia Khiang for a cup of coffee.  The meeting would also involve the affected stall-holders.

Dr Balakrishnan appears confused.  Mr Low is secretary-general of The Workers' Party, which manages AHPETC, but the chairperson of AHPETC is Ms Sylvia Lim.  Dr Balakrishnan should meet with Ms Lim instead.

Footnote: Whose Town Council?
TODAY refers to AHPETC as Workers' Party-run.  It refers to PAP-managed town councils as PAP town councils.[4]

Why is there a distinction?

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Notes

1. NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT AGENCY NEA Releases Documents in AHPETC Case 9 Jun 2013.

2. ALJUNIED-HOUGANG-PUNGGOL EAST TOWN COUNCIL NEA is Contradicting Itself 9 Jun 2013.

3. Vivian Charges WP with Lying over Hawker Centre Row TODAY 10 Jun 2013.

4. TODAY 11 Jun 2013.

1 comment:

  1. “On 7th Feb 2013, NEA wrote to WP’s AHPETC to say that “the Hawkers Association will make the necessary arrangements with their contractors on the scaffold erection/dismantling during the spring cleaning period from 4 – 8 March 2013”. The cleaning here refers to Block 538 Market.
    What NEA could produce was a price quotation for high areas cleaning made by AHPETC’s contractor to one Mr. Ng Kok Khim of Hawker Association for Block 538 Market. (19th Feb 2013)”

    Why was the quotation sent to Mr. Ng Kok Khim?
    Why was the quotation not sent to the Secretary of Hawker Association for Block 538 Market?
    Hawkers Association of Block 511 Market has a Secretary, Mr. Chan Kheng Heng.
    Hawker Association for Block 538 Market should have a Secretary.
    Why called for only one quotation?
    Why “the Hawkers Association will make the necessary arrangements with their contractors on the scaffold erection/dismantling during the spring cleaning period from 4 – 8 March 2013”, when AHPETC has to make the payment?
    If AHPETC has to pay for the cleaning, it is logical for AHPETC to call for the quotation?
    Why did NEA interfere and make a mess?

    “However on 8 May 2013, Mr. Chan Kheng Heng, Secretary of Hawkers Association of Block 511 Market, approached WP MP Faisal for assistance. He alleged to the MP that AHPETC informed him that stallholders had to bear the cost of cleaning areas above 2.5 metres above the ground.”
    Did Mr. Chan Kheng Heng produce a letter from AHPETC on that matter? If he did not produce concrete evidence, I cannot believe what he said is true.
    If AHPETC wanted the hawkers to make extra payment for the cleaning of hawker centre, AHPETC would have to write a letter to them. Did Mr. Chan Kheng Heng demand a letter from AHPETC?

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