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Singapore

Sylvia Lim avoided calling for tender for new managing agent despite having time do so: Davinder Singh

SINGAPORE: Former chairman of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) Sylvia Lim “dishonestly” put in effect a plan to avoid a tender for a new managing agent, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh said on Friday (Oct 19).

On the second day that Ms Lim took the stand, Mr Singh, the lawyer representing Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), posited that right from the beginning, Ms Lim had considered waiving a tender.

It is the case of Ms Lim and her fellow defendants that the waiving of the tender was necessary because of the urgency for AHTC to find a new managing agent to replace CPG Facilities Management, which was “pulling out”.

But Mr Singh charged that Ms Lim had already been thinking about waiving a tender even before May 30, 2011, when CPG stated it wanted to withdraw as managing agent.

“All of what you said suggests that you might think ‘we don’t want CPG because of their association with the People’s Action Party’. But that would only mean that if you go for someone new, you need a tender. My question is: How did you, on the 9th May, go from tender to waiver?” Mr Singh asked.

In response, Ms Lim said: “As I said Mr Singh, firstly, it’s a timing issue, and secondly, based on experiences of the past, we knew that very likely we’d better rely on ourselves and do risk mitigation.”

Ms Lim, along with fellow MPs Low Thia Khiang and Pritam Singh, and AHTC councillors Kenneth Foo and Chua Zhi Hon, are being sued by AHTC and PRPTC for alleged breaches of fiduciary duty relating to the appointment of its former managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS). 

This, along with “flawed governance” of the town council and “improper” payments of more than S$33 million made mostly to FMSS, is the subject of two lawsuits that also are aimed at FMSS employees How Weng Fan and Danny Loh, who also held positions at AHTC.

According to KPMG, whose audit report forms part of the basis for the lawsuits, "the tender process for FMSS' initial appointment was waived without proper justification".

KPMG alleges that the contract AHTC signed with FMSS after this waiver was "improperly entered into", as procedures in the Town Councils Financial Rules (TCFR) were not followed.

KPMG said the managing agent fees proposed under this contract amounted to S$4.2 million per year for Aljunied, a sum "significantly greater" than the S$70,000 threshold that makes it compulsory for town councils to call for tenders under the TCFR.

According to KPMG's report, CPG could have been kept on as managing agent as there were two more years on its contract, while AHTC called for a tender for a replacement.

Mr Singh on day 11 of the trial proceeded to poke holes into the defence that there was not enough time to call for a tender. Ms Lim agreed that there was sufficient time. 

“As of June, if you had decided to keep them until the end of August, you would have three months to do the tender, correct?” asked Mr Singh.

“In theory yes, but it would not be wise,” Ms Lim replied.

“My question is you would have had three months to do the tender. I’m not talking about theory. I’m talking about time needed for tender. Do you agree?”

To that, Ms Lim said: “I agree that the tender time would be about two months.”

When Mr Singh put it to Ms Lim that there was enough time to do a tender for companies to put in bids to provide managing agent services for AHTC, she agreed that there was. But this would be at the expense of “other critical works” and would jeopardise the town council’s interests, she said.

Mr Singh also asked if there was any written note that showed CPG requesting to be released from its contract, to which Ms Lim said there was none. 

The trial continued in the afternoon with Ms Lim on the stand.

Source: CNA/ja(ra)

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