The swift response by the PAP-run Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC) after a complaint against its then general manager shows the "essence of how the Government operates", Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.
"Regardless of who and regardless of the fact that this is the general manager of Ang Mo Kio Town Council, if there is an allegation, it will be investigated and no one will be spared," he said about Mr Victor Wong, who is under investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
"No town council, no one, nothing will be swept under the carpet. That is why Singapore is successful, because we take probity in public office very, very seriously."
Mr Shanmugam was responding to questions by The Straits Times about the case, after briefing the media on a review of criminal processes for young suspects.
ALL ALLEGATIONS WILL BE PROBED
Regardless of who and regardless of the fact that this is the general manager of Ang Mo Kio Town Council, if there is an allegation, it will be investigated, and no one will be spared.
MR K. SHANMUGAM, Home Affairs and Law Minister.
AMKTC removed Mr Wong from his posts last November after it received a complaint concerning his handling of contracts at the town council. Mr Wong is an employee of AMKTC's managing agent, CPG Facilities Management.
AMKTC, which looks after estates in Ang Mo Kio GRC, which is helmed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, referred the case to the CPIB. Mr Shanmugam contrasted this with the practices of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), run by the Workers' Party (WP).
The owners and shareholders of AHTC's managing agent, FM Solutions and Services, had held key positions in the town council, and a report by auditor KPMG last year said it had resulted in serious conflicts of interest that exposed millions in public funds to improper use. KPMG also said the lapses, if deliberate, could amount to criminal conduct.
Mr Shanmugam compared the actions taken at AMKTC with the situation at AHTC, which he noted was "the only place where this Government is not in charge". He said of AHTC: "In that one place, first you have people appointing their cronies to run the town council. You have the town councillors being misled about the terms on which the cronies were appointed. You have Parliament being misled, and the High Court said so. You have the Court of Appeal being misled."
He noted that the auditors were still looking into AHTC's books, and said: "There is more to come, but this is not the way to do things. The way to do it is to disclose all the information, be upfront, hand it over, and then let the law take its course, not hide every step of the way."
When asked about the view that a People's Action Party-run town council should be held to higher standards, he said: "You are not going to get angels in power all the time. The real point is whether the system as a whole is clean, whether the man at the top is clean, and whether the systems move quickly and immediately and forcefully, regardless of who it is."
He added: "You look for clean people, but sometimes people fall prey to temptation. You cannot prevent that, not now, not ever."
The WP, in response, said in a statement that the law should be allowed to run its course. "Premature speculation, especially when done by influential people, may pervert the course of justice by shaping investigations," it said.
It cited as an example Mr Shanmugam's past criticism about a lapse at AHTC that involved the use of manual journal entries to record about $60 million in payments to third parties.
The WP said yesterday: "Some people jumped prematurely on the possibility of fraud and fictitious payment without waiting for the results of the audit.
"When no fraud and fictitious payments were found, the speculators kept quiet."
Minister K. Shanmugam on the probe. http://str.sg/amktc