After news broke out that the Worker’s Party’s Sengkang Town Council (SKTC) failed to attract any bids during their tender exercise, everyone wondered whether it is because the managing companies didn’t want to associate themselves with the opposition party.
The current managing agent, EM Services, has since spoken up.
Tender Exercise Attracted No Bids
SKTC was formed in July 2020 to manage Sengkang GRC, a new constituency that was won by the Worker’s Party in the 2020 elections.
The constituency consists of Buangkok, Compassvale and Rivervale divisions, which used to be part of Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC and Punggol-East SMC. These areas used to be managed by EM Services.
The constituency also includes Anchorvale, which was part of the Sengkang West SMC and was managed by CPG Facilities Management.
Currently, SKTC only manages the Anchorvale division directly. They took over the management of Anchorvale after its inherited contract with CPG ended.
The other divisions are managed by EM Services, as per the inherited contracts. The contract will end on 31 January 2023.
SKTC had called for a tender for a managing agent in April 2022 to prepare for next year’s contract expiration, but did not receive any bids. EM Services did not put up a bid during the exercise.
This means that SKTC will have to directly manage all divisions from 2023.
EM Services Responds
EM Services responded to SKTC’s announcement on 19 May, citing a manpower crunch as the reason for not putting in a bid.
Chief executive officer Tony Khoo explained that managing a town requires many people, and it isn’t easy to find the right people with the required skill sets. This is especially since the labour market is very tight these days.
As such, EM Services did not put in a bid.
When asked about the perception that management companies prefer not to work for opposition-run town councils, Mr Khoo did not comment.
However, he did say that factors considered before putting in a bid include pricing, manpower, duration, technologies, and others.
For this case, manpower was the dominant factor, especially since the tender was looking for an agent for the entire town. EM Services currently manages only a part of Sengkang town.
Basically, he’s trying to say that it was not politically motivated without saying those actual words lah.
Are Town Councils Political In Nature?
Former WP MP Yee Jenn Jong said in a Facebook post about this situation that the town council system was designed to be political. There will always be more barriers that opposition-run town councils face, such as the lack of a managing agent.
Mr Yee said that he was “not at all surprised that there is zero bid to manage Sengkang Town Council. I had always believed that eventually, the town council had to be self-managed whether we like it or not.”
He pointed to the case of the Aljunied Hougang Town Council (AHTC) suing its own town councillors over $33 million in improper payments that AHTC made under their watch. The councillors in this 2017 case involved former WP chief Low Thia Khiang, WP chief Pritam Singh, and WP chair Sylvia Lim.
The case was partly due to AHTC’s hiring of FM Solutions and Services as a managing agent. The WP leaders hired the company, formed by two WP supporters, without a tender after winning Aljunied GRC in the 2011 elections.
The WP leaders had said that this was because their then-managing agent, CPG Facilities Management, was unwilling to continue its role after the elections. They also insinuated that CPG may “sabotage” AHTC as they were apparently aligned with the PAP.
You can read Mr Yee’s post here:
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Featured Image: Facebook (Sengkang GRC)
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