SINGAPORE — The Ministry of National Development (MND) has launched a Code of Governance to promote greater transparency and raise governance standards among its 16 town councils.
In a media release on Wednesday (19 June), the ministry said that the Code of Governance will take effect in April next year to give time for the town councils to implement its provisions.
Town councils have been under scrutiny in recent months. Several Aljunied-Hougang town councillors including the senior leaders of the Workers’ Party are embroiled in two lawsuits over alleged improper payments to its managing agent. Separately, former Ang Mo Kio Town Council general manager Wong Chee Meng pleaded guilty in March to charges of corruption, and his sentencing is pending.
Some of the provisions of the Code include:
Ensuring a comprehensive five- to 10-year town council plan, and that adequate resources are allocated to the plan,
A maximum limit of 10 consecutive years for a chairperson of any council committee that oversees its auditing, financial or procurement affairs,
Robust data privacy and information security policies and procedures in place to secure its information assets,
Policies and procedures in place to ensure the effective selection, consideration and award of contracts to the vendors.
The complete Code can be found on the MND website.
Based on 5 guiding principles
The Code is based on five guiding principles: integrity, objectivity, accountability, fairness and transparency. Its provisions will span four domains: council effectiveness, internal controls and processes, financial management and vendor management.
MND said in its media release, “Today, town councils collectively manage about $2 billion worth of public and residents’ monies. As public institutions entrusted with significant amounts of public funds, town councils should have good governance and management controls in place to remain transparent and accountable to their residents.
“In recent years, MND has taken steps to strengthen the regulatory framework for town councils, while ensuring that they continue to retain autonomy over their operations.”
The Code provisions will set out best practices, which town councils are encouraged to adopt, through a comply-or-explain regime.
MND has worked with appointed consultant Ernst & Young to draft the Code. It also consulted the town councils in December last year, and held a public consultation in April. Feedback from the consultations was taken into consideration when formulating the Code.
Checklist to declare compliance
To facilitate the town councils’ declarations of compliance, MND has issued a Governance Disclosure Checklist for the Code. Town councils must declare their compliance with the Code provisions using the checklist, and submit it to MND annually.
Where the town councils opt not to comply or are in the process of working towards compliance with certain provisions, they will be required to provide meaningful explanations on how the governance standards in the Code are achieved.
The first declaration will be due for submission in September 2021, and will be made available for public viewing on the MND website.
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