The gloves are certainly off, with just a few more days to polling day, no effort is spared by the PAP to discredit and cast doubts on the integrity of opposition candidates.
Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Finance and Transport, had raised questions on Monday about Hougang’s Town Council accounts, implying that the Worker’s Party (WP) may not be managing its finances in an effective manner.
She was speaking on the topic of the seven HUDC blocks located in Hougang Avenue 7 that were awaiting privatization. Residents had voted strongly for privatisation in February this year.
Mrs Lim said that the privatisation exercise has hit a stonewall due to Hougang’s Town Council’s silence about its accounts, and that some residents have resorted to sending a lawyer’s letter to the town council asking for details of its accounts, especially its sinking fund.
She said: “Is it (the accounts) just messy or are they holding back till after the elections so that whoever wins Hougang will then inherit the accounts? The Workers’ Party has always emphasised transparency and accountability of the town council. It is very perplexing why they have kept very quiet.”
WP’s secretary-general Low Thia Khiang has hit out at Mrs Lim’s comments, which he allege is “an accusation on (his) character“.
At the WP’s rally in Sengkang on Tuesday, Mr Low rebutted Mrs Lim’s comments very forcefully and convincingly, and he listed chronologically the steps that had been taken to segregate the HUDC estate’s accounts.
A full transcript of his speech is attached below.
Dear Voters of Punggol East, Seng Kang West, friends and fellow Singaporeans, good evening.
We have entered a critical phase in this election. PAP has shown its hands. They have embarked on a personal attack against me to try to discredit me. The Prime Minister has personally gone down to Aljunied GRC to campaign for the PAP team led by 2 ministers and a future speaker of Parliament, three veteran PAP heavy weight candidates. And MM Lee has also come out to make fun of our team as compared to the PAP’s.
I believe they will also make use of the media to mock me. Please be careful of what you read in news paper and what you see on TV. Please come and attend our rallies in the next 2 nights and help us to spread the message, and keep checking our web site wp.sg
First, I want to respond to Mrs Lim Hwee Hua’s accusation about Hougang Town Council’s Account. She said: “Is it messy or are they holding back till after the elections so that whoever wins Hougang will then inherit the account?”
Do you believe that Low Thia Khiang is dishonest? Do you believe that if the account of Hougang Town Council is messy, I can survive for 20 years?
The account of Hougang Town Council, like any Town Council account from the PAP, has to be audited by a public accountant who must be approved by the Ministry for National Development. After the auditor completed the audit, it has to be submitted to the Ministry for National Development and Auditor General for approval. After which, like all statutory boards, it has to be presented to Parliament and each MP can have a copy of it.
If the account is messy, how come MND and Auditor General approved it? Why is Mrs Lim, who is a minister and an MP, making this kind of comment now? She has received a copy of the report on Hougang Town Council and had not made any observations earlier. Why shoot such irresponsible comments on me now? What is she trying to do?
May I remind her as well that during the Lehman crisis, Hougang Town Council is one of those who did not lose any money! We have always handled our funds prudently.
Next, she brings in the issue of the privatization of the HUDC estate at Hougang Ave 7. She says that Hougang Town Council has not given the pro-tem committee formed for the purpose of privatization on the portion of the sinking fund balance, to be transferred to them after the privatization. This is again totally misleading.
The HUDC estate is part of the estate managed by the Town Council. The expenditure of the estate such as repainting works, reroofing works, building maintenance and other expenses are all taken in one single account under the account of Hougang Town Council which includes the HDB flats. This was what I took over from the PAP when I was elected in 1991.
Now that these blocks are to be privatized and they will manage themselves, the accounts have to be segregated, including the expense attributed to the blocks. The balance will then be transferred to their account as required on the date decided by the HDB.
This is the first time Hougang Town Council has needed to do this, we want to be sure that the account separation is done properly and we do not have experience in this area, so what did we do? Hougang Town Council wrote to HDB on 23 August 2010 after the HDB sent its briefing note to HGTC on the privatization process on 23 August 2010. We asked for advice and guidance on the method and principles we should use to separate the account as well as format for the accounts to avoid future dispute on how we have arrived at the final amount to be transferred to them.
The HDB replied to the above query on 24 Nov 2010 and said that HougangTC will have to decide on the basis of splitting the account. Hougang TC then started preparation for the process by discussing with the auditor the job scope and modification of the computer system to capture the expenditure and receivables separately.
The auditor was then appointed on 17 March 2011 and the certified apportioned sinking fund based on audited account as at 31 March 2010 was completed on 11 April 2011. HGTC is now in the process of capturing the expenditure apportioned to the HUDC estate between 31 March 2010 and 31 March 2011. Once the audited account for the HUDC estate is completed and presented to Parliament, HGTC will give a copy to the pro-term committee.
The HDB privatization briefing note to Hougang TC stated that the role of the TC is to hand over the operating and sinking fund to the Management Committee upon legal privatization. According to HDB who informed HGTC on 6 April, they have obtained the required consent for privatization but the expected duration to legally privatize the estate is 2 and half years!
I have called for a report on this issue, Hougang Town Council has given me the correspondence between the Town council and the HDB and between the pro-term committee chairman. The Pro-term committee chairman was informed of the steps HGTC has taken.
Therefore, we have done everything correctly. Why does Mrs Lim Hwee Hua decide to take up the case and suggest that the account of Hougang Town Council is messy and I, as chairman of Hougang Town Council, have done something wrong. I leave it to you to guess her intentions. Don’t you think that if I had done this, I am quite sure that I will be sued.
It is tiring during election time to deal with this kind of issue, instead of using my precious time to tell you more about Workers Party message and policies, I have to end up wasting time answering such nonsense accusations.
I will tell the PAP: if they suspect that I have done anything wrong with the account, do report me to the CPIB. Do not hookwink the voters at this critical time when polling day is near.
This is the PAP’s usual tactic: Do you still remember at the last election, the case of CCTV footage from the Election department?
All this is calculated to distract the voters and the Workers’ Party from delivering its message.
Election is a serious matter. I will be focused in the next 2 days to urge the voters to Vote Workers’ Party, towards a First World Parliament.