SINGAPORE - Town councils may soon be required to notify residents and the Ministry of National Development (MND) of key appointments like its chairman or general manager.
They would also have to set up a dedicated fund to replace lifts, and not take part in financial activities that detract from their core function of managing public housing estates, like operating its own commercial fairs.
These are among 12 amendments to the Town Councils Act, for which the MND is seeking public feedback and is expected to be updated by the end of the year.
The wide-ranging changes clarify the roles of town councils and are expected to improve governance and strengthen how they manage finances, as well as give the ministry more regulatory oversight.
The long-awaited review was first mooted in May 2013. It was raised again last February after a debate on the Auditor-General's special report flagged major problems in the Workers' Party's town council's finances.
After the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) reported a sharp rise in arrears in April 2013, it stopped submitting its monthly arrears reports for almost two years.
Currently, MND has no power to compel town councils to give information on its finances and there are no penalties if a town council refuses to do so.
But if the proposals are accepted, town councils must submit their audited financial statements to MND within six months after the close of the financial year, or risk being penalised.
Members of the public can give their feedback on the changes till Nov 17, the MND said in a statement on Tuesday (Oct 17).
First introduced in 1989, town councils were set up to give MPs the "authority and responsibility" to take charge of their constituents' estate.
MPs would also be directly accountable to their voters, who could take into account how they fared in running the town councils.
In its statement, MND said the proposed amendments "seek to ensure that TCs deliver essential public services in a consistent, fair, and sustainable way that serves the interest of residents, while retaining the autonomous nature of TCs".
"The review also recognises that the public expects transparency and accountability from TCs as they manage public funds and take responsibility for maintaining a good living environment for residents," it added.
Details of the proposed amendments are available on the Reach website at https://www.reach.gov.sg.
Members of the public can submit their comments and suggestions by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, sending a fax to 6325 7254 or by post to the Ministry of National Development, 5 Maxwell Road #21-00, Tower Block, MND Complex, Singapore 069110.