AHTC lawsuits

AHTC trial: WP town council said to have given impression it would use own IT systems

In May 2011, Hougang Town Council secretary How Weng Fan sent e-mails to the incumbent managing agent of Aljunied Town Council, CPG Facilities Management, and the Housing Board was copied in the course of the correspondence.

These e-mails created the impression that Workers' Party (WP)-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) would be using its own IT systems to run its operations, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh said yesterday.

Hence, it would not be unreasonable for computer vendor Action Information Management (AIM), which was servicing Aljunied Town Council, to start the process of terminating its contract with the town council, Mr Singh added.

He made the point, when cross-examining WP chairman Sylvia Lim, to show that AHTC had begun to upscale an existing IT system it had, even before it was told on May 30 by CPG that AIM would be pulling out.

The existing IT system was being used in the Hougang Town Council, and its expansion was to enable it to also serve the residents of Aljunied GRC, which the WP had won from the ruling party in the May 7, 2011, General Election.

So, the decision by AHTC to upscale the software was not based on anything which AIM had told the town council, Mr Singh said.

Ms Lim agreed, saying the decision was based on what had happened in the 1990s, when opposition-run town councils had to fend for themselves and develop their own IT systems.

This happened to former WP chief Low Thia Khiang when he won single-seat Hougang and ran its town council, she said.

Hence, when the WP won Aljunied GRC in 2011, "we came to the conclusion that we had better take some pre-emptive measures to safeguard our residents' interests", she added.

 
 
 

Mr Singh also said that the e-mails the WP MPs circulated among themselves in May 2011 did not show there was any concern over AIM terminating its contract with Aljunied Town Council.

He asked if there was any e-mail or correspondence which showed this.

Ms Lim replied that she recalled a meeting which the WP MPs had with HDB's town council sec-retary Chong Weng Yong on May 20, 2011.

Mr Chong had asked them if they had an IT system they could upscale, Ms Lim said.

Mr Chong later wrote to Ms How to provide her with the contact details of the AIM representative, she said.

Ms Lim added that Mr Chong copied the e-mail to the WP MPs because he knew of their concerns.

Mr Singh responded: "What concern? I asked you to find something, anything which recorded a concern. All I see instead is your objective to upscale (the computer system)."

The lawyer highlighted several May 2011 e-mails that were sent among Ms How, Aljunied Town Council general manager and CPG managing director Jeffrey Chua, and the HDB.

These were to arrange for meetings between the incumbent and new computer vendors as well as for the transfer of data and information, among other issues.

On the issue of how AIM might have reacted to the e-mails, Mr Singh asked: "If a contracted party gets the impression that the other party wants to go it alone, it would be reasonable for that unwanted contracted party to initiate the separation process?"

Ms Lim said that it depends, and later explained that the correspondence up to end-May was about the financial collection system only, and what AIM was providing - the Town Council Management System (TCMS) - was much more.

Ms Lim said the WP MPs decided it was not likely they would be able to use the TCMS, and that starting to upscale their IT software was a "contingency".

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2018, with the headline 'WP town council said to have given impression it would use own IT systems'. Print Edition | Subscribe