Several times yesterday, former Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang said the idea of calling a tender to appoint a new managing agent for Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) did not cross his mind.
His cross-examiner, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, pointed out that Mr Low had been chairman of a town council for 20 years, and said it could not have escaped his attention that a tender was needed.
He also asked why Mr Low did not get incumbent managing agent CPG Facilities Management to stay on while a tender was called.
Referring to Mr Low and the other WP MPs, Mr Singh said: "How can it be that all these MPs, including an experienced town councillor who has been a chairman for 20 years and three lawyers, didn't even raise this issue of the need to call for a tender, and for that purpose, to ask CPG to hang on until the tender is done?"
"But that is a fact," Mr Low replied.
"It is either that, Mr Low, or as I suggest to you, there was no intention to call a tender," Mr Singh said.
Mr Low responded: "It did not cross my mind whether a tender should be called under the circumstances... The thought just didn't arise in the mind."
HOW WAS ISSUE NOT RAISED?
How can it be that all these MPs, including an experienced town councillor who has been a chairman for 20 years and three lawyers, didn't even raise this issue of the need to call for a tender, and for that purpose, to ask CPG to hang on until the tender is done?
SENIOR COUNSEL DAVINDER SINGH
THOUGHT DID NOT ARISE
It did not cross my mind whether a tender should be called under the circumstances... The thought just didn't arise in the mind.
FORMER WP CHIEF LOW THIA KHIANG
The exchange unfolded on the ninth day of a multimillion-dollar civil suit to recover alleged improper payments made by AHTC. Mr Singh is representing Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council in the case.
The Senior Counsel subsequently sought to establish that Mr Low and his fellow town councillors had planned for FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) to manage the town council from the start, as evidenced by notes that indicated new staff would "take over" from CPG on July 15.
According to the defence, CPG had told the town council of its desire to leave its contract only on May 30, 2011. But as there was a July 15 date marked for takeover, there was no time to carry out a tender.
Mr Singh said calling a tender "would have upset the plan".
Mr Low disputed this, and said the "contingency plan" for FMSS to serve as managing agent only kicked in when CPG asked to leave.
Mr Singh said: "The reason it would appear that it didn't occur to you (to call a tender) is because you were proceeding with FMSS, when it comes down to it."
FMSS was "the best possible option we could have", Mr Low said.
But Mr Singh pointed out: "It is not a question about there being no time to do a tender, it is not a question where you were being put in a situation where it would be a rush to call a tender... Your own fallback plan would be inconsistent with calling a tender."
Mr Low replied: "Yes, you can say that, but it has never been on my mind to call a tender in the first place."
Mr Singh then highlighted various e-mails to make the point that Mr Low knew that CPG's services could be extended beyond July 31 if needed - contrary to his defence that there was not enough time to call for a tender.
"According to your case, the time that AHTC would have needed to call for a tender is two months… So, there would have been enough time to do a tender, and even if time was a bit tight, you could have asked CPG to stay on," said Mr Singh.
Mr Low said: "In theory, yes."
Mr Singh responded: "What do you mean in theory? In your own defence you said two months (was needed)... you had the two-month period between June 1 and July 31. In fact, if you needed more time, you could have asked CPG to stay on for a little longer."
Towards the end of the six-hour hearing, Mr Singh drew Mr Low's attention to an e-mail he received from a WP member six days after his party won Aljunied GRC in May 2011. The WP member had advised Mr Low to prepare to call a tender for a new managing agent.
Mr Singh charged: "Therefore your entire evidence that you gave today about the tender having not crossed your mind and no one telling you about the tender is regrettably untrue."
Mr Low disagreed.
Mr Singh said: "In fact, it would appear from the documents that there was a concerted attempt to hide this plan so that you can avoid a tender, so that nothing can stop you from engaging FMSS."
"No, there was no such plan," Mr Low replied.