AHPETC banded 'red' again for 2 aspects in town council report
THE former Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) continued to get red marks in two areas, in the Ministry of National Development's (MND's) latest report on town council performance released yesterday.
It was banded red - the worst of three bands - for service and conservancy charges (S&CC) arrears, for the fourth straight year. Its other red mark was for corporate governance, for the third year in a row.
In a statement responding to the FY2014 Town Council Management Report, Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) chairman Pritam Singh said the red marks "are issues that the town council has been working to address". Workers' Party-run AHPETC became AHTC after the party lost Punggol East in the Sept 11 General Election.
The report covers the April 2014 to March 2015 period. Town councils were assessed in five areas and banded green, amber or red.
In the two areas of estate cleanliness and lift performance, all town councils were banded green.
Estate maintenance remained the most widespread issue, with 10 of the 16 town councils banded amber. All 10 had got the same banding in the previous year.
The bands are based on measurable, objective criteria submitted by town councils and their auditors, said MND. For instance, town councils with fewer than four issues per block get a green banding for estate maintenance.
For S&CC arrears, two other town councils besides AHPETC did not get the best banding. Chua Chu Kang and Potong Pasir town councils were both banded amber.
Chua Chu Kang Town Council chairman Zaqy Mohamad said the "temporary blip" was due to more residents appealing to delay payment or work out instalment plans. He said: "We didn't realise that in acceding to all the requests, we went over the MND threshold for green."
Generally, being banded green means that fewer than 4 per cent of households owe arrears for three or more months, and less than 40 per cent of collectible S&CC is overdue.
Mr Zaqy said his council noticed the issue in January and restored their arrears situation to "green" by the end of March, working closely with affected residents and linking them up with social agencies.
For corporate governance, Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council was banded amber "on a technicality", said MND. It had incorrectly classified part of its income during data migration, but has fixed the issue.
As for AHPETC, it was banded red for S&CC arrears as it failed to submit monthly arrears reports for the assessment period, said MND, adding that most of the reports since May 2013 have yet to be submitted.
In corporate governance, AHPETC had three legal and regulatory contraventions, as indicated by its own auditor's findings and the town council's self-declared checklist. These included failing to make sinking fund transfers "in a timely manner" and failing to keep proper accounts and records.
Mr Singh said AHTC has approved the procurement of a new town council management software system, expected to be operational within 18 to 24 months from the award of tender.
The existing IT system had limitations which caused challenges for S&CC arrears management and corporate governance, he added.
AHTC will also be appointing accountants, said Mr Singh, as ordered by the Court of Appeal last week, after the court allowed the Housing Board to join the MND in taking court action against the town council.
The full report can be found at www.towncouncils.sg