The Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) could have kept its incumbent managing agent for longer, and this would have given it up to four months to call a tender for a replacement in 2011, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh said yesterday.
There was "no need to get rid of" CPG Facilities Management after July 31, 2011, as it could have been retained by AHTC exercising its contractual rights, he added, in an ongoing hearing of a multimillion-dollar civil suit alleging improper payments.
But AHTC removed CPG because WP chairman Sylvia Lim had decided that a new agent would be appointed and an open tender waived, Mr Singh charged when cross-examining Ms Lim for the second day.
Mr Singh said there were even discussions for CPG to stay until Sept 30, 2011, to ensure that the handover was done properly.
As CPG had told the AHTC on May 30, 2011, that it was terminating its contract, retaining it until Sept 30 that year would have given the town council four months to call a tender, Mr Singh said yesterday, the 11th day of the lawsuit against eight people, including three WP MPs.
Ms Lim responded that the Town Council Management System (TCMS) - a software offered by CPG's computer vendor - was no longer available in September.
Keeping CPG on was possible legally and "in theory", she said, and the tender would have required two months. But the WP MPs' assessment was that they had to put in a "committed team" that would work for the residents, Ms Lim added.
Mr Singh retorted: "Don't blame the residents for your decision to not have a tender."
In 2013, Ms Lim had said in Parliament that an open tender was waived because a managing agent had to be put in place quickly for a handover. Yesterday, Mr Singh also established that on May 9, 2011 - just two days after winning Aljunied GRC in a general election - the WP MPs had already decided to appoint their own managing agent.
He said they should have considered then the need to call a tender.
He asked Ms Lim how she had "jumped" from considering calling a tender to waiving one.
Ms Lim said this was decided based on the assumption that CPG had been working with People's Action Party-run town councils, and since the way MPs managed their town councils would have some bearing on their electoral success, CPG would be committed to the PAP.
When Mr Singh asked Ms Lim again for an answer on not calling a tender, she replied: "It is a timing issue, and secondly, based on the experience of the past, we knew that very likely, we had better rely on ourselves and do risk mitigation."
Mr Singh asked: "Therefore, when you thought about a waiver, you thought about relying on yourselves?"
Ms Lim replied: "We had to plan."
Asked who the "we" referred to, Ms Lim said it was herself and WP's former chief Low Thia Khiang.
Mr Singh responded: "Which means that as of May 9, it would at least have been decided by the two top people of the party that you were going to appoint your own managing agent."
At yesterday's hearing, Mr Singh said repeatedly that Ms Lim was refusing to give a "yes" or "no" answer.
It led her lawyer, Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, to point out that she was also entitled to say she was "unable to answer yes or no", and then proceed to explain.
At one point, Mr Singh told Ms Lim: "You can be an obstreperous witness if you like... but you still have to answer the questions."