Friday, January 11, 2013

AIM, mis-AIM & Punggol By-Election

I have refrained from writing about AIM saga here on my blog officially because of a few reasons. First of all, I feel that both parties, are guilty of politicking without really account to what is the REAL COST to the residents of Aljunied GRC. PAP didn't come clean on how much it has cost for all the PAP TCs back in 2003 in developing the estate management software in the first place. WP didn't come clean on why they initiated the development of the new software and how much they have spent in doing so.

PAP has used AIM as a political vehicle to do politicking in the event of a loss of any constituency controlled by them. Although it is not clear whether they have actually did it explicitly right after losing Aljunied TC (we will never know if a conversation transpired between both parties might have hinted anything of this sort) but apparently there is absolutely no reason for TCs to sell the software to PAP owned AIM and it is obvious that AIM bought the software out of political considerations rather than commercial value. Of course, this is obviously a serious breach of conflict of interest and residents' interest was compromised in very sense. PAP's explanation is totally unconvincing at all and this has been dealt with many bloggers and writers already. I shall not repeat here.

As for WP, it didn't raise the red flag of such blatant conflict of interests until its competency of running the Town Council was put into question and doubt by the Town Council report. In fact, WP has gone on the record to say that the handover was smoothly done. I cannot see how AIM saga, which has been resolved back in Sept 2011 could have affected WP's performance in the whole year of 2012 or how it could delay the auditor's report until now. Apparently, this is just smokescreen of excuse for the below par performance.

Sylvia Lim has filed a motion in parliament to debate about "Safe Guarding Public the Interests in Town Council Management" and PM Lee immediately called for an inquiry by HDB into this matter.

Thereafter, PM Lee called for snap By-election in Punggol East and immediately, Sylvia Lim withdrew her motion, giving the excuse of wanting to wait for the Inquiry to be completed.

Such adverse politicking between the two parties is rather sickening to me. Many of you may not really understand the whole process here, thus I will dissect what the whole matter is all about.

The whole issue of this AIM saga has developed from the small little bickering between the two parties, PAP and WP, into something more important. If such things happen in Hong Kong, there would be an uproar of public opinion over it, on both parties. The issue is MORE THAN AIM itself. It is about REAL Potential Conflict of Interests in management of public entities and the government.

It has happened in places like Taiwan before, whereby the ruling party, has sold public enterprises or assets at dirt cheap prices to companies owned by people related to the party or directly to the party itself. The potential threat of corrupt practices is REAL if such things are not kept in check with transparency and accountability.

However, conflict of interests may not just stop at the party level. What does conflict of interests mean? A political party selling a software developed using by public money to a company it owns? A public entity giving contracts to companies owned by immediate family members or relatives of those running or managing that public that considered as conflict of interests ? Or even worse, these public entities giving business contracts to companies owned by the very people who manage or running that public entity.... is that considered as conflict of interests ?

Conflict of interests MAY NOT be illegal or criminal in nature as long as bidding processes are done with proper documentation. However the question is, is it politically ethical or correct?

In my view, Sylvia Lim was just too bold to file that motion to be debated on Monday. This is because ultimately, the debate will be focused on how to define Conflict of interests. She has forgotten that WP has been involved in running HGTC for all this while. When you are in charge of a TC for over 20 years, it is difficult to guarantee that you will have no issues of Conflict of Interests at all, regardless of whether or not there are conscious effort in avoiding it. Thus, PAP may just pull out some examples of conflict of interests that happened in WP controlled TC in the past and that would make WP look extremely and extraordinarily bad politically. Unless Sylvia Lim is 100% sure that there isn't any visible or underlying conflict of interests in EACH AND EVERY DEALINGS, CONTRACTS ISSUED etc, she is basically opening up a dangerous front for her own party!

People assume opposition like WP would be angels and above board of everything but is that really the case? For eg, since they attacked on vote buying in HDB upgrading pork barrel politicking but ended up they have done similar act of vote buying when they have that little power in hand, i.e. Lucky Draw for Voting for HDB upgrading. Such thing won't be made known to us if there is no whistle blower.

In the case of town council management, conflict of interests may not be "illegal" though politically not right. PAP has all sorts of conflict of interests and we now know that AIM is one of them but we expect opposition parties not to do such things. If one day, you found out such conflict of interests also happen in opposition parties, how would you think? It would be a total disaster on the political front, not only for WP but for the whole opposition movement.

Apparently, PM Lee took that golden opportunity to immediately draw a clear line from AIM and call for an independent inquiry. It would be unimaginable to call for a By Election immediately if he felt that the parliamentary debate on Monday on the proposed Motion by Sylvia is going to hurt PAP badly. That would be disastrous for PAP's campaign in Punggol but why did he call for the BE? I don't think the PM is that stupid after all and we should not underestimate our Prime Minister. There is no coincidence that he did the both things almost at the same once Sylvia filed that motion. It shows that he is prepared to go for scorched earth, to spill it all!

I believe that the PAP is prepared to go all out to debate on Sylvia Lim's motion and they must have something up their sleeves, they are so confident that they are willing to put Punggol By Election at stake. I guess they should have sensed the unusual courage and boldness of the predictable conservative PAP, thus finally realized that it is not a good idea after all to file that motion. Thus, just like playing the poker game, they blink and withdrew the motion. This is the whole politicking process all about.

This may not be the end of the issue if PAP decide to carry on and ask their own MPs to file the same motion on Monday.

I have long proposed not to have TC managed by MPs. You can read about the rationale here at New Asia Republic and the original write up.  A MP should focus on parliamentary and law making. This should be their core business that voters voted them while taxpayers pay them to do. They should not be expected to run the TC. Else, we will end up with these messy situation of AIM saga and all sorts of politicking that would undermine the effectiveness of the MPs in doing their core business.

As for my views about the impending By-Election in Punggol East, I shall talk about it in my next few postings, if I have the time to write.

Goh Meng Seng


Kenneth Koh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kenneth Koh said...

[Sylvia Lim has filed a motion in parliament to debate about "Safe Guarding Public the Interests in Town Council Management" and PM Lee immediately called for an inquiry by HDB into this matter.]

I take issue with the above (Para 4)

It leads readers to think that PM Lee called the inquiry immediately because Sylvia Lim filed the motion. It implied that PM was worried about the motion might lead to something unpleasant in the coming parliament sitting.

Further, the development cost of the software, to me, is immaterial because the cost would have been depreciated long ago.

One more thing. Anybody who want to run for the office of a MP better be ready to run a Town Council which to me is a political entity as it changes ownership with the change of a MP. As such, what conflict of interest is there? Hence, whether it is a $2 company or $2 million company doesn't matter because it is PAP's problem.

mrdes said...

Dear sir, I have to admit that I am kind of disappointed in reading this post. You're just giving yourself excuses to put every party down. And that in itself is deplorable.