21 February 2014

AHPETC Lessons For Opposition Parties

The Workers' Party's experience in managing Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council ("AHPETC") is a timely wake-up call for the opposition parties that aspire to win any electoral constituency in the next general election or by-election.

Managing Agent
Around the time of the handover of Aljunied TC from Aljunied GRC's losing People's Action Party ("PAP") Members of Parliament to the victorious The Workers' Party Members of Parliament (and therefore elected members of the town council), the incumbent managing agent ("MA") indicated its desire to be released from the MA contract.

No reason was disclosed by newly constituted Aljunied-Hougang TC ("AHTC") why the incumbent MA would voluntarily walk away from the MA contract, which is estimated to be worth about $4 million a year (before Punggol East was merged into AHTC to form AHPETC).

Managing a town is not a piece of cake.

It is far more complex and far more challenging than managing a management corporation strata title plan property (also known as a condominium) where mostly routine events take place.

Complying with Town Councils Financial Rules is more demanding than complying with the financial rules set out in Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act (for condominiums).

This is exacerbated by the fact that there are very few companies that have the capability to manage a town, but don't actually manage one; their town management expertise must be retrenched if not deployed. The Ministry of National Development is unlikely to hand hold and tutor any new managing agents or new Members of Parliament.

What will an opposition party do if it wins an electoral constituency and finds that the incumbent MA of the town wants to be released from the MA contract? Or, if the town council calls for bids for the MA contract but no credible company expresses any interest?

Who will manage the town?

This is no longer hypothetical; it happened to the Members of Parliament of Aljunied GRC.

It is somewhat akin to a party winning a general election only to find out that the civil servants resign en masse. Who will run the town, state or country, as the case may be?

It is a frightening prospect. Yet it needs to be addressed and the eventuality well thought through and planned for.

Managing a town without the full complement of trustworthy staff possessing the requisite expertise and competencies is a formula for disaster.

As I pointed out yesterday, I cannot understand how AHPETC's MA can forget to transfer moneys to the sinking fund not once, but all four times, in the financial year ended 31 March 2013. Was it oversight or something else? I wonder whether moneys have been transferred to the sinking fund in respect of the first three calendar quarters of the current financial year. I hope it has been done.

Town Council Management System
When the 14 PAP-managed town councils 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 town council by giving that town council 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 town.

Fortunately for AHTC, it could leverage and expand on the TCMS used by Hougang Town Council. What would have happened if it couldn't?

What if there are similar surprises waiting for the opposition Members of Parliament if any of them should win any electoral constituency?

The next general election is not far away. The opposition parties owe a duty to the citizens who plan to vote for them that, should they win any electoral constituencies, they will be able to manage the town councils and the towns efficiently and effectively both on the ground and in the financial accounts. So efficiently and so effectively that the Minister of National Development and his ministry would be hard pressed to fault them in any way.


1. After The Workers' Party won Aljunied GRC from People's Action Party in 2011 General Election, Hougang TC was merged with Aljunied TC to form Aljunied Hougang TC. Subsequently, after The Workers' Party won the Punggol East by-election from People's Action Party in January 2013, Punggol East TC was merged into Aljunied Hougang Punggol East TC.

2. A town is the area declared to be a town under the Town Councils Act, and comprises the common property of residential and commercial property in Housing and Development Board's housing estates therein. A town council is a body corporate constituted to control, manage, maintain and improve the town. A town council has perpetual succession and may sue and be sued in its corporate name.


  1. Why are town councils politicized in the first place? The managing agent should have no political bias and should manage the town regardless of who is the MP is.

    1. All the MAs are morphed from the previously stats boards like HDB,easmaco, GPG. They know which side of the bread must be buttered.

  2. We do not have to fear if our court is fair and just towards the oppoistiion camp and can issue order against unfair treatment towards the elected opposition ward.. However....you guys know as much as I know whether this is so.

  3. Timely reminder or fear mongering. There's always the first time. Amongst the Residents in the town surely there is enough expertise to do the job. Better to bite the bullet than to live in perpetual slavery.

    1. My point is that aspiring opposition parties must be adequately prepared so that, if and when they succeed at the polls, they will not be caught flat footed if the TC has no MA. They need to plan ahead. Now.

  4. I fear for Singapore.

    So if there is another competent party who will to take over the govt, they have to make sure they have another the SAF, the Civil Institutions etc all line up.

    Real first world country? What the fark!
    Do Singaporean really allow this to happen - all essential services to be politicized.

    1. Even Republicans & Democrats are willingly to take their fight right up to the edge... shutting down their civil service.

      But I believe that if any other party wins, their leadership must be able to steer the ship. The crew elected them and placed their faith & trust in them.

      If the civil service ( the rudder for the ship ) is willing to resign en mass, then the crew will have to build a new rudder. This is where the leaders come in to show the way. The collaborative stance among the crew is important and the leaders must have this skill to create & nurture it.

      This is what a "new beginning" is... and I most willingly welcome it, and participate in it...pimples & acnes and pain & loss.

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