WP MPs 'have not answered all the questions posed to them'

THE Workers' Party (WP) has not been forthcoming in addressing the accounting lapses of its town council, People's Action Party ministers and MPs said yesterday.

Several times in the debate, they described the responses by WP MPs as inadequate and insincere, and criticised their attempts to distract instead of coming clean on how the lapses occurred.

The criticism came even as the WP said its MPs took "collective responsibility" for the lapses and would put things right.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said he was initially cheered when WP chief Low Thia Khiang declared the party would back the motion that Parliament noted "with concern" the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) report on the audit of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

He said that changed when Mr Low launched into "a political speech, playing the victim of an unfair political world created by the Government".

WP MPs repeated objections the AGO had rebutted, said Mr Khaw, adding: "This consistent pattern of evasive behaviour gives us cause to doubt the sincerity of the AHPETC MPs... Instead, there was a certain arrogance, a disdain for having to come and address the House to answer for the adverse findings of the AGO audit."

Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) said the opposition MPs tried to "brush off" its lapses as mistakes due to inexperience and human error.

They also cast the report as saying that no funds were missing and that no criminal or dishonest activity was uncovered, when it did not "by any stretch" say so.

"Rather, (the report) says that it does not know, because of the way the town council has mismanaged its operations," he said.

He added later: "They did come to this House with a different, more contrite tone... But that facade fell away when Mr Pritam Singh said that he will answer to residents who ask him questions during his house visit and not to this House."

Mr Singh (Aljunied GRC) had said on Thursday that the WP MPs would answer any questions that residents might have.

Yesterday, Mr Nair asked several times whether the WP would come clean and answer all questions asked of them in Parliament.

Mr Singh's response: "The WP members have come to Parliament and are taking collective responsibility... We are not here to make excuses."

To this Mr Nair said: "They have not answered all the questions that have been posed to them, and they are certainly not answering the questions they don't want to answer."

asyiqins@sph.com.sg