In AHTC trial Sylvia Lim accused of mismanaging residents’ money

“You seem to be casual about people’s money,” said Senior Counsel Davinder Singh to Sylvia Lim in reference to her oversight of contractor FM Solutions & Services

TODAYonline reports in the ongoing Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) trial Workers’ Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim, according to prosecuting attorney Davinder Singh, allowed FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) free reign to hire new employees, costing residents needlessly.

In response to Singh’s accusation, Lim argued she and other Member of Parliament (MP) on trial Low Thia Khiang had acted with due diligence and not spent residents’ money irresponsibly, though Lim did admit to violating council protocol regarding a waiving of tenders.

Calling for tenders is a standard process by which a town council designates a time for companies to enter bids on town services. When the call for tenders closes, the council reviews the bids received and chooses which company to contract.

Council protocol demands tenders be called for any services that cost more than S$70,000 a month. However, in July of 2011 FMSS was contracted to take over management of the town council at a rate of S$90,000 a month without previously calling for tenders. No documents were found explaining why tenders were waived.

FMSS was contracted on a reimbursement basis, meaning whatever costs FMSS accrued would be paid back to them in monthly instalments up to a maximum of S$1.1 million a year.

Singh referenced these terms in the context of FMSS’ promise to “engage new staff as necessary” which essentially gave them a blank check with little oversight.

“Would you tell your gardener to ‘go forth and hire, and hire as many as you want, I will reimburse you?”

– Davinder Singh, Senior Counsel

Lim defended herself, saying she merely gave FMSS “the discretion” to hire employees as was necessary, not to simply hire as many people as could be subsidised by the town. Lim went on to note these terms were “for a transitional period” and were not standard operating procedure.

To further support her claim that the terms of FMSS’ contract were reasonable, Lim said herself, Low, and other Member of Parliament (MP) Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap all heard FMSS’ proposal and found it to be fair.

Though, Lim did admit she was unsure of the specifics of the deal: Lim did not know about FMSS’ cost structure; the previous contractor CPG Facilities Management’s (CPG) cost structure; or the exact number of employees FMSS planned to hire.

Singh contended Lim did not have enough information to to assess FMSS’ proposal adequately and contracted FMSS for political gain: to put her associates at FMSS, the late owner of FMSS Danny Loh and his widow How Weng Fan who is also on trial, in positions of power.

This latest assertion on the part of Singh comes after his claim earlier in the week that tenders were not called for because the AHTC did not want a better bid to be entered.

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