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Not-for-profit model sought for 4 food centres

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 4, 2014

THE Government is considering having managers run four existing hawker centres on a not-for-profit basis in the first such move here. These managers can also choose to take over the existing centres' cleaning, maintenance and other duties from the town councils.

The four centres are in Block 117 Aljunied Avenue 2; Block 20 Ghim Moh Road; Block 503 West Coast Drive; and Block 207 New Upper Changi Road, which will be replaced by a nearby centre at Block 208B.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a Request for Information (RFI) on government procurement website Gebiz that long-term leases for stalls in these four centres will expire in May. They were part of the Stall Ownership Scheme implemented almost 20 years ago, when stallholders could rent the stalls for 20 years for an upfront amount.

The NEA wants organisations to submit proposals to manage these centres on a not-for-profit basis after the leases expire, in line with the 2012 recommendations of a Government-appointed panel on new hawker centres.

The not-for-profit model means that any operating surplus generated by a hawker centre must be shared among its stakeholders, such as the stallholders, the manager and the NEA, and be used to create "social benefits", and cannot go to the manager's shareholders.

The managers, who are essentially master tenants, will be responsible for looking for hawkers to take over vacant stalls, and for food prices and food mix in the centres.

The managers must submit these details to the NEA every three months.

The agency said that the managers must ensure availability of affordable and hygienic food, employment opportunities for Singaporeans and permanent residents, and "community space for interaction and bonding".

In a first, these managers can also choose to take over the town councils' duties for the centres.

The NEA said this would allow them to "achieve economies of scale in the centre's upkeep as well as gain greater control of the entire hawker centre". These service and conservancy charges will have to be approved by the NEA.

The agency said its RFI was a "market sensing" move and did not constitute a procurement process. The proposal deadline is Jan 29.

Social enterprise NTUC Foodfare will manage the new Bukit Panjang hawker centre on a not-for-profit basis when it opens next year.

Its chief executive, Mr Perry Ong, said it will be responsible for cleaning and maintenance in the centre. "It is better that a single party has ownership of the hygiene of the whole premise."

He said the group will study the RFI and consider putting in a proposal if it can add value to the centres.

zengkun@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 4, 2014

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