berthahenson

Draft of an unpublished story

In News Reports, Reading, Society on December 31, 2012 at 1:59 am

I suppose MSM is waiting for PAP’s Teo Ho Pin’s response on the sale of the town council’s computer information system before it decides to publish anything on the matter. Typical move, except that too much of the action is taking place online to be ignored. Even if sources are un-named, they are worth reporting for wider public consumption. Better still, if the MSM can go out and GET them named, or at least get confirmation of the facts.

So, here’s my attempt to piece the story together from what’s online. Moderately. Carefully. Oh, so carefully….

MORE questions regarding the sale of a town-council developed computer information system to a People’s Action Party company have surfaced, with one individual purportedly escalating the matter to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

The unnamed individual has asked the police to look into how the tender was awarded to Action Information Management, according to documents mailed to TR Emeritus.

Another individual, who declined to be named for “professional purposes’’, has also dug out what he claimed to be the original tender notice announced on June 30, 2010. He charged that it was lacking in details compared to other tender notices. The notice also levied a a $214 fee for interested applicants to “find out more’’, he wrote on The Online Citizen.

These disclosures, which have yet to be confirmed by the CPIB or the town councils, are the latest of a series of questions that is being asked by the online community, which was first alerted to the circumstances of the sale by blogger Alex Au.
The issue came to light after a report card on town councils’ work was made public with Workers’ Party run Aljunied-Hougang TC lagging behind conspicuously behind in the corporate governance category. This was because, WP MP Sylvia Lim said, it had yet to develop a computer information system after the vendor, Action Information Management, terminated its services following the WP win in the ward.

Mr Au and other online commentators unearthed a trove of information about the vendor: That it was a $2 company, which bought the system which the 14 town councils had developed for $140,000. It leased the system back to the town councils for a fee of $785 a month. Ex-MPs S Chandra Das, Lau Ping Sum and Chew Heng Chin were named as directors.

PAP’s co-ordinator of town councils Dr Teo Ho Pin confirmed that the company was People’s Action Party owned, while the company declared that its action to terminate the contract with the opposition-run TC was in line with a contractual clause that it allowed it to do so if there were “material changes in the composition’’ of the TC.

Dr Teo charged that the WP was already developing its own information system, had asked and been granted two extensions and could have asked for a third extension to the lease if it wanted. Ms Lim hit back, accusing Dr Teo of not addressing more fundamental questions of the contract termination.

Online commentary appear to be focused on the following issues:
• Accountability – Whether residents’ funds were used to develop the computer system and the logic behind having it sold to a third party, which happens to be PAP owned, and re-leased for a fee.
• Transparency – Of five interested applicants who paid the fee for more information on the tender, only AIM put in a bid. Drawing parallels with the Brompton bike case, comments included whether the tender process could have been extended to allow for more bidders to take part and whether there was any impropriety in the process.
• Political connections – Implicit in the commentaries is whether AIM’s move to terminate the Aljunied-Hougang TC contract is a purely partisan decision rather than motivated by business or public interest considerations. If so, the on-going saga raises the question of the role of political parties in business and how these businesses operate in the political sphere.

Said former journalist Bertha Henson: “It’s disquieting to read what’s online. The Government has always maintained that its tender processes are above-board. A political party too should maintain the same strictures lest it be accused of using business for political or private gain – at the expense of the public interest.’’
PAP’s Dr Teo said he would give a fuller accounting soon.

PS. I interviewed myself as a quote but apparently the technique just puzzled people…hence, deletion

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