Commentary

Let us not centralise Town Council services

Published: 4:02 AM, May 6, 2013
Updated: 6:00 AM, May 7, 2013
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With the Government accepting the findings and recommendations of the Ministry of National Development (MND) Town Council Review Report, the focus has now shifted to a “strategic and comprehensive review of Town Councils”. This is timely and needed.

The three-month review was primarily to examine the 2010 sale of the PAP Town Councils’ Town Council Management System software in an open tender to Action Information Management (AIM), a PAP-owned company. The MND is satisfied that public funds were safeguarded and that residents’ interests were not compromised in the sale and leaseback transaction.

It would appear that the kerfuffle between AIM and the Workers’ Party (WP) stemmed from a “different understanding of the execution of the termination clause” in the IT contract following the transfer of Aljunied Town Council from the PAP to the WP after the latter’s May 2011 electoral victory in Aljunied GRC.

To my mind, the issue was unnecessarily politicised after the WP laid the blame on the termination of its IT contract with AIM for lapses in running the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council. This incident reflects the political “new normal”.

A POLITICAL GENESIS

The town council (TC) was first established in 1989. While the main intent of the TC framework was to provide for the decentralisation of the control, management, maintenance and improvement of Housing and Development Board (HDB) estates, the political consequences were even more significant.

That TCs are inherently political was evident from the outset, and it would be naive to think otherwise.

As a form of local government, TCs transformed the role of the elected Member of Parliament (MP) from being a mere politician to one that included administrative responsibilities. MPs are now directly responsible and accountable to their resident-voters for the day-to-day running, upkeep and upgrading of their HDB estates.

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