SDP unveils town council management plan

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has released its plans for the running of a town, with town councils set to become an election issue, said the party's secretary-general Chee Soon Juan on Saturday.

"We want to allay whatever reservations that (voters) have, by saying we got things in place," he said at the launch of the SDP's 17-page town council management plan.

The move comes amid an ongoing spat between the Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and the Ministry of National Development (MND) over the town council's finances and management.

Dr Chee said, though, that the plans were not motivated by current events.

When asked by reporters, he also declined to comment on AHPETC or draw comparisons between the WP town council and the SDP town council plans.

In February, a report by the Auditor-General's Office had identified major lapses in AHPETC's accounting and governance practices, and concluded that there was no guarantee public funds were being properly spent.

The MND, which has withheld grants to AHPETC, has applied to the High Court to appoint independent accountants who will oversee the use of the grants at the town council.

AHPETC has opposed the appointment, and a decision by the High Court is pending.

At his party's even on Saturday, Dr Chee said that in his experience, there was no "deliberate sabotage" by the old town council management after the SDP won the Bukit Gombak and Nee Soon Central seats in the 1991 general election.

"We didn't see anything that showed that they deliberately tried to sabotage us. Sometimes they dragged their feet on this and that, but you expect that of anybody else being taken over," he said.

Dr Chee also believed that any future SDP town council would not be starting from scratch as the outgoing administration would not "pull the plug on all the computers and take them all home".

In its plans, the SDP gives details on how it would ensure a smooth takeover of a town council and run a transparent operation that would involve the residents.

It sets targets and deadlines, such as aiming to gather all of the town council's financial information within the first 30 days of taking over.

The party also plans to start a blog to update residents daily on the progress of the transition and the level of cooperation from the outgoing management team.

In addition, the SDP says it will hold elections within the constituency to elect residents to the town council's board.