WP and ministry lock horns over managing agent rates

THE Workers' Party (WP) yesterday locked horns with the Ministry of National Development (MND) over the rates it paid its managing agent in Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC). WP disputed the figures cited by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Monday, citing charges that were $1 less.

The difference stems from WP leaving out commercial units in its sums. MND said last night that the WP numbers give an "incomplete picture" as town councils collect service and conservancy charges from both residential and commercial properties.

"This is the method MND has always used, and applied consistently to all TCs."

For FY2012, WP and AHTC chairman Sylvia Lim said the the managing agent, FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), charged $7.01 per residential unit a month, as opposed to $8.04 per unit cited by Mr Khaw on Monday.

By WP's calculation, this was just about 4 per cent higher than the amount the former managing agent of the PAP-run Aljunied Town Council would have charged had they continued to provide their services. FMSS took over from CPG Facilities Management as managing agent in 2011 after the WP was elected in Aljunied GRC.

On Monday, Mr Khaw said FMSS charged 20 per cent more in managing agent rates for FY2011 compared to what CPG charged the year before. He asked if this was in the public interest, noting that FMSS was owned by WP supporters. Ms Lim also justified the higher rates for FMSS as the contract packed in more. She said they covered services and costs not provided by the previous administration. These include the cost of more lifts due to lift upgrading, more town council offices, and more technical staff. The rates also built in "reasonable increases" for inflation and staff wages.

Ms Lim also explained yesterday that FMSS' rate for FY2011 had two components as the town council had expanded to cover both Aljunied GRC and Hougang after the general election, running six wards instead of five under the PAP.

Ms Lim yesterday also took issue with Mr Khaw's comparison between AHTC and Tampines Town Council. Mr Khaw had said the managing agent fees in Tampines were $4.99 per unit in FY2012 or 50 per cent less than for AHTC.

Ms Lim said the $4.99 charged by CPG in Tampines was lower than the $6.51 the same company charged PAP's Aljunied Town Council in FY2010. Noting that Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council had been charged $5.75 per residential unit in 2007, she suggested that Tampines was an "outlier".