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'Challenging to find good people': EM Services CEO says labour shortage prevented bid for Sengkang Town Council tender

SINGAPORE — The tight labour market was cited as the reason why Sengkang Town Council's (SKTC's) existing managing agent EM Services did not put up a bid to manage the town council, its chief executive officer Tony Khoo told TODAY on Friday (May 19). 

A scene at a road junction in Sengkang town.

A scene at a road junction in Sengkang town.

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SINGAPORE — The tight labour market was the reason why Sengkang Town Council's (SKTC's) existing managing agent EM Services did not put up a bid to manage the town council, its chief executive officer Tony Khoo told TODAY on Wednesday (May 18). 

He said: "As you are aware, managing township requires many people. As the labour market is very tight these days, it is not easy to find the right people who have the relevant skill sets. As such, we have decided to give it a miss for this tender." 

SKTC, which was established in 2020 to manage Sengkang Group Representation Constituency (GRC), called a tender last month for managing agents to serve three divisions within the GRC — well in advance of the end-2023 expiry date for the current managing agent. 

The town council announced in a Facebook post on Tuesday that it had received no bids even with this early search.

The town council will directly manage all divisions within Sengkang town when the current management period of the remaining incumbent managing agents comes to an end next year, it added.

The GRC comprises four divisions in total — Buangkok, Compassvale, Rivervale and Anchorvale — that had come from wards held by the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) before the 2020 General Election.

Buangkok, Compassvale and Rivervale were formerly part of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC and Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC), previously managed by EM Services under Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council.

The Anchorvale division, formerly Sengkang West SMC, was previously managed by CPG Facilities Management under Ang Mo Kio Town Council. CPG managed the division until Oct 31 last year, when it handed the operations over to SKTC.

Mr Khoo noted that EM Services now manages just a part of Sengkang GRC, while the call for tender by SKTC was for the entire GRC. 

"A typical town council requires between 60 and 80 people (and) our contract ends in January 2023," he said. "The labour market, including facilities management, is short of manpower due very much to the Covid impact."

He added: "It is challenging for any company to find good people in this environment." 

TODAY has also reached out to CPG Facilities Management, which had run part of the town council, on whether it also faces similar challenges as EM Services and whether it will affect the way it runs other town councils, such as those under PAP. 

Similar questions were also posed to a separate managing agent, Cushman and Wakefield, but it declined to comment. 

The Workers' Party (WP), which won Sengkang GRC in the 2020 General Election, also declined to comment.

The SKTC announcement follows past moves by WP town councils to self-manage the opposition-held wards, after a lengthy trial found that senior party leadership breached their fiduciary duties to the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC).

TODAY has also reached out to SKTC to ask if there are plans to issue a second tender, and whether the the party's experience with the AHTC case led it to conduct the tender exercise differently. 

Related topics

Sengkang Town Council Workers' Party EM Services WP manpower

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