Workers' Party town council says S&C arrears of 29.4% incorrect, due to human error

The  Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Councill revealed its service and conservancy charges arrears rates for both residential and commercial units on Monday, saying it reviewed the data internally and also run them by its consultants before r
The  Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Councill revealed its service and conservancy charges arrears rates for both residential and commercial units on Monday, saying it reviewed the data internally and also run them by its consultants before release. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Workers' Party said on Monday that human error had been responsible for its town council erroneously reporting a high service and conservancy charges arrears (S&CC) rate in April 2013.

The 29.4 per cent reported by Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) to the Housing Board then was incorrect, and had been recorded as a result of "reporting and human errors", said town council chairman and Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim on Monday.

She also revealed that AHPETC's S&CC arrears rates for residential units was 5.66 per cent, as of September last year, while that for commercial units was 7.24 per cent.

In a press statement on Monday, she said: "We wish to explain that we are sharing the information now rather than earlier, as time was needed to have the data and process reviewed both internally and also by our consultants before release."

AHPETC had come under fire for failing to collect payments for S&CC on time.

In the annual town council report released last November, the town council was given the worst banding for its management of S&CC arrears and for corporate governance.

Its last recorded arrears rate was 29.4 per cent, and it had not filed its monthly S&CC arrears reports since May 2013.

On Monday, Ms Lim said that a mistake had occurred in calculating the arrears rate of 29.4 per cent.

Since AHPETC did not have a "fully operational computer system...to do aggregated S&CC arrears reporting in the format required by the Ministry of National Development", the town council staff had been preparing its reports manually.

This had been done using data generated by AHPETC's IT system and extracted through manual sorting and counting, said Ms Lim.

In arriving at the figure of 29.3 per cent, "an additional step of sorting to avoid double-counting of the same household was inadvertently omitted".

"Unfortunately everyone did not notice the anomaly in the April 2013 report that was later published in the Town Council Management Report. We acknowledge the oversight, and regret the error in reporting to Housing Development Board (HDB)," said Ms Lim

She added that this "tedious" process of generating arrears reports had also resulted in the town council submitting its arrears reports late.

In June 2013, the town council had informed HDB that it could not submit the April 2013 arrears report as "it was sorting out a bug in its IT programme for generating arrears reports".

Said Ms Lim: "AHPETC acknowledges that this manual process is not the most ideal and efficient way of doing aggregated arrears reporting, as the data size is voluminous. The former Hougang Town Council was able to do such manual reporting in the past as the number of households under management then was a fraction of what AHPETC is handling."

She said, though that the manual reporting process had not compromised the "accuracy, integrity, monitoring and management of each individual S&CC account".

Even then, the town council had, since last November, developed and tested a new "aggregated arrears reporting module" that would be able to aggregate S&CC data in various combinations.

"This enhancement will improve productivity in reporting," said Ms Lim. "AHPETC will strive to make further improvements to better serve its residents. We thank our residents and the public for their patience and understanding in this matter."