Town councils given top marks for lift performance in annual report card

All 16 town councils have received top marks on their lift performance in an annual report released on Monday (Nov 20).
All 16 town councils have received top marks on their lift performance in an annual report released on Monday (Nov 20).PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - In a year with a spate of lift breakdowns, all 16 town councils received top marks on their lift performance in an official report card for town councils.

Two town councils - Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC) - however, did not do as well when it came to corporate governance.

Estate maintenance - a perennial problem - also remains an issue, with 12 of 16 town cuoncils getting an amber rating for breaches such as obstruction of common areas.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) released the Town Council Management Report for the 2016 financial year on Monday (Nov 20).

The annual report assesses town councils in five areas: estate cleanliness, estate maintenance, lift performance, management of arrears in service and conservancy charges, and corporate governance.

They receive green, amber or red scores, based on measurable objective criteria submitted by town councils and their auditors.

Lift issues

The all-green rating for lift performance comes in a year that saw a multitude of lifts malfunctioning in estates across the island. These breakdowns occurred at both ageing and new Build-To-Order housing estates alike.

To get a green rating for lift performance, each estate must have fewer than two breakdowns per month for every 10 lifts.

It must also have fewer than two in 100 lifts with a non-functioning automatic rescue device, which brings a lift to the nearest landing and opens the doors if there is a power failure.

MND said that these criteria were fulfilled, and that the automatic rescue device failure rates were zero for all the lifts managed by the town councils.

In 2016, the Housing Board noticed a higher-than-usual breakdown rate in the lifts installed by Sigma Elevators in their first year of operation.

The Straits Times reported that in several public estates with Sigma lifts, the elevators continue to break down repeatedly and are out of service for long periods.

Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council chairman Zainal Sapari said: "Even though there have been reports of lift issues in some of the new Build-To-Order flats in Punggol and older lifts in Pasir Ris, the total number of such cases is still very small relative to the total number of lifts that we are managing. It's a very small percentage.

"Nevertheless, we treat every case of lift breakdown seriously and we will work with the lift company to resolve those reported cases."

Corporate governance

AHTC and AMKTC were the only two town councils that did not get a green banding for corporate governance.

AHTC received a "red" banding because of its late quarterly transfer to the sinking fund, a waiver of quotation that was not in accordance with requirements under the Town Council Financial Rules, and a report on its fixed assets count that was not certified in the correct manner, said the MND.

AHTC chairman Pritam Singh of the Workers' Party said remedial actions have been taken. For instance, the town council has improved its internal procedures to monitor key deadlines, after a quarterly transfer to the sinking fund had been late by three days due to staff oversight in signing the bank instructions.

On the waiver of quotation, he said the town council had done so as it had assessed that it was more viable to continue with its existing service provider doing payroll processing and attendance and e-leave tracking.

He added that the service provider had said it would not increase its charges.

"We will strive to keep all inadvertent administrative errors to a minimum and comply with the Town Council Financial Rules," said Mr Singh.

Meanwhile, the Ang Mo Kio Town Council was given an "amber" banding as it did not seek approval from the correct approving authority to waive quotations, as required under the financial rules.

AMKTC chairman Ang Hin Kee told The Straits Times that the town council's general manager had approved waivers for four projects which were each valued at $3,000 and above.

Under MND rules, only the town council's chairman can waive quotations for projects of such amounts.

"Although all four cases were urgent cases, these rules still have to be followed," he said. "It's regrettable that this has happened."

Two projects had to do with noise and insulation problems with air-conditioners, and two were for the replacement of pump room parts.

Mr Ang said the town council has since made it a rule for all who sign such waivers to read through a list of guidelines to ensure they are the correct approving authority.

He also said the town council did not sufer any financial loss as a result, and all services and products were delivered.

The former general manager of AMKTC had been removed from his position last year and is being investigted for alleged corruption. Though he was the one who signed the four waivers, the cases are not related to his removal or the investigation, said Mr Ang.