Debate on AHPETC in Parliament: The dramatic things people said

View of the Singapore Parliament building against the nation-state's central business district skyline in February 2015. (Yahoo file photo)

As expected by some, there were verbal fireworks in Parliament on Thursday in the debate over the Auditor-General’s report on the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC). The report found “several lapses” in some of the financial statements of the town council, which is run by the opposition Workers’ Party.

Here are some of the more interesting – even wild – things that people said.

1. Khaw Boon Wan, Minister for National Development

Minister of National Development, Khaw Boon Wan (AFP file photo)

 (On AHPETC’s managing agent, FMSS, run by married couple Danny Loh and How Weng Fan) “It’s very convenient. The husband issues a payment voucher, the wife approves payment, the wife signs a cheque. It’s all in the family.”

“In Japan, the chairman or CEO will call a press con, take a deep bow and in the good old days they may even commit ‘harakiri’.”

Click on the image below to watch an excerpt of Khaw's speech:

“In response to legit queries from auditors, MND officials, their own residents and the media, they stone-walled, deflected queries, made false or dishonest claims, raised irrelevant excuses and sought to confuse the public.”

(On the accountability of elected MPs) “Instead, what we have consistently gotten from MPs of AHPETC is sidestepping and avoiding responsibility… first, no response, then in due course, and then followed by a series of excuses blaming everybody else for their failure to perform.”

“Compared to the sound and fury of politicking… governing is long, tedious  and unglamorous work.”

2. Low Thia Kiang, Worker’s Party leader

WP chief Low Thia Khiang (Yahoo! photo/Jason Ong)

 “Under our current system, it seems to me that any opposition party which aspires to be elected in the GRC will have to build town management team to train 100 staff officers first. Then… taking the advice of Minister of National Development, start shopping for an off-the-shelf accounting software.”

“We are for transparency and accountability. We are not shy to support a motion that is critical of us.”

“We are fully aware that if we overlooked certain matters, PAP would be first to take us to account. We are not daunted by it as this is what a first world parliament should be: Keep whoever’s in charge on their toes, to do the job properly and be accountable to the people.”

“We should put this episode in proper perspective: AHPETC’s performance in other aspects of town management is comparable to other Town Councils.“

“We need to look at the depoliticisation of transitioning processes and professionalism of town management.”

3. K. Shanmugam, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law

K Shanmugan

“The rhetoric from the Worker’s Party is always about helping the poor man. The reality is that Worker’s Party took money from the man in the street and gave it to FMSS (FM Solutions and Service), to their friends.”

“The house is burning, and (Sylvia Lim) is standing in front of it and saying there is no loss (of monies).”

“STOP playing the victim card.”

“Your town council is in shambles, it is quite amazing to hear you stand up and say everything is okay… Each of you appear to have seriously breached your fiduciary duties.”

“On behalf of residents… we have to ask Worker’s Party to come clean and explain yourselves to the public. Your residents deserve some real honest answers.”

“So many things are so disastrously wrong… There has been a complete dereliction of duties.”

4. Pritam Singh, Worker’s Party member

WP member, Pritam Singh (Yahoo! file photo)

“Our duty is to the residents. We will answer to them.”

“Minister, if you were a resident, I’ll answer your question. Thank you.”

Shanmugam responds:

“I see a very interesting definition of transparency… ‘We’ll answer residents, we won’t answer parliament’.

“There is a phrase, to walk the talk. Talk is cheap.”

“I think if you want to go beyond and be honest with people of Singapore, I suggest you take your time and you answer those questions, rather than (make) grand pronouncements about rejecting my statements and that you’re all for transparency.”

“I accept that you’re all for transparency. So, in the spirit of transparency, answer the questions.”

5. Sam Tan, Minister of State

“I must say that I’m a resident of Aljunied GRC. In fact, Mr Chen Show Mao is my MP. I will not bother you to come to my house during the house visit. You can give the answers in the name of transparency and, if I may add, professionalism and integrity and honesty to this house at tomorrow’s sitting.”