GPCs – Ownself check Ownself

Government Parliamentary Committees (GPCs) have been announced today, here’s a short graphic from the PAP’s facebook page, introducing the new Chairpersons of the various GPCs:

Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) Chairpersons

Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) Chairpersons

The one question on everyone’s mind: Simi GPC?

In short, GPCs were created to ‘ownself check ownself’.

GPCs consist of backbenchers (aka MPs) who are grouped into different ministries to provide an alternative voice to Parliament sittings. This was created in a time before the NMP scheme came out and there was close to no opposition representation in Parliament. The role of the GPCs was to be the “shadow opposition” in a Parliament with little opposition voices, and look critically at policies. Looking at the lineup, most of the Chairmen or Chairwomen seem to be newer and younger MPs, who can maybe provide a more fresh perspective on policies and how these can be improved, maybe even a step closer to becoming future office holders.

GPCs not only critique various policies, but also come up with structured recommendations on how to improve policies or even operations. Here’s an example of the recommendations by the Health GPC with regards to healthcare affordability. They reflected the ground sentiments of “it is better to die than to fall sick” (可以死不可以病) and provided suggestions to improve the healthcare system to have better safety nets for those who are unable to afford the growing cost of healthcare.

Actually hor, “ownself check ownself” not so easy hor, cannot say everything is nice and rosy, also cannot oppose for the sake of opposing. Still must write recommendations… hmm…

AIM-ing to give you the facts

The troubles in AHPETC have nothing to do with AIM. It is dishonest to link the two.

The PAP TCs consolidated ownership of the system under AIM as the start of the process to tender for a new system. By this time, the system was obsolete and worth very little.

“We entered into the transaction with Aim with the objective of benefitting the TCs. Over the last two years, the intended benefits have been realised. There is thus no basis to suggest that the AIM transaction did not serve the public interest, or was disadvantageous to residents in the TCs.” – Dr Teo Ho Pin 

AIM and its directors did not make any money from this consolidation and transfer of ownership.

The MND conducted an official inquiry and concluded that nothing wrong was done and this was discussed in Parliament.

When the WP took over AHPETC, it gave notice to AIM to terminate the contract for the system as it wanted to develop its own system. When it needed more time to do so, AIM granted extensions of time. AHPETC thanked AIM in writing for its assistance.

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With AHPETC’s accounts being flagged red and submitted late, the WP only raised the AIM issue 2 years later. But those had nothing to do with AIM.

Pot calling the kettle black? AHPETC vs PA Accounting lapses

The Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) has conducted its selective audit of PA and 124 of its grassroots organisations (GROs) between July 2014 and February 2015, and has observed that there were procedural lapses among GROs.

Netizens have expressed concerns regarding these lapses, citing the recent AHPETC saga which saw several dramatic episodes in parliament between the WP MPs and the PAP MPs. They say PAP is the pot calling the kettle black; they question the right of the PAP to condemn the actions of AHPETC when the PA GROs have committed similar offences.

There are some differences between AHPETC and PA to bear in mind.

1. WP has repeatedly refused to acknowledge their accounting lapses and conflicts of interest. They have not only refused to acknowledge their wrongs, they have refused to right their wrongs.

PA on the other hand, takes these findings seriously and has taken immediate actions to rectify all the lapses. PA has since informed AGO that it will review its procurement rules for GROs, to strike the right balance between competitive procurement and “expeditious decision-making” on the ground.

 Note the difference: If there is a mistake, they admit, investigate, punish if warranted and learn from it. This is not how AHPETC has done itYear after year, AHPETC has been making the same errors over and over again. Evidently, they have not learnt from their mistakes. 

2. Responsibility taken by the individuals is also an important factor to consider.

After many months of investigation, and pressure from the public and the court, AHPETC finally decided to do away with FMSS. No legal or stern action was taken against the company.

On the flip side, there was also one case of non-declaration of conflict of interest in a Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC). While the Investigation Panel set up by PA found no evidence of dishonesty by the volunteers concerned, this is nonetheless a serious lapse. The Chairman has apologised for the lapse and has resigned from the CCC. The CCC member has been advised to comply with proper procedures. Despite only being a volunteer, the CCC chairman has taken responsibility and has resigned.

Note the difference: AHPETC is run by paid staff, not volunteers. Hence, they are obliged to know the proper financial procedures. Volunteers in the GROs may not have this knowledge at present.  

3. AGO audited both AHPETC and PA. In the AHPETC case, the AGO said that the accounts cannot be relied upon and there can be “no assurance that public funds are properly spent, accounted for and managed”.

For PA, there were procedural lapses which were fixed and action taken.  But there was no issue with the overall accounts.

I think the difference is clear; the severity of the accounting lapses should be seriously considered when comparing both cases.

At the end of the day, the AGO report is impartial and it gives the organization a chance to improve on its governance. How it is managed is the crucial point. The management should be accountable and responsible for their flaws and make sure it does not happen again.