Just as I thought that the muddle over conflict of interest was beginning to clear up a little because of the clarification from MND and from Madam Halimah, I have come across news (rather belatedly noticed by me) that Potong Pasir Town Council has appointed EM Services as the Managing Agent.
On 21st May 2011, it was still being reported that the newly elected PAP MP Mr Sitoh Yi Pin was hoping to take over the management of the Town Council by the end of the month. It has been reported on 27th May that the Town Council has appointed EM Services.
The following is from an article appearing on Channelnewsasia on 27 May 2011:
Potong Pasir Town Council staff to be offered jobs by EM Services
SINGAPORE: The Potong Pasir Town Council has engaged EM Services to be its managing agent.
Town council Chairman and MP for the area, Sitoh Yih Pin, said there are currently 16 staff in the town council under its previous Chairman, Mr Chiam See Tong.
And EM Services has accepted Mr Sitoh’s request to re—hire all of them from the town council.
Mr Sitoh said he wants to take over the operations smoothly with minimal inconvenience to the staff.
EM Services has distributed human resource forms for the staff to complete and they would likely be re—hired in other town councils.
Mr Sitoh added that he is also in discussions with EM Services to place three of the staff in Potong Pasir as they live in the division.
The choice of the next general manager of the Potong Pasir Town Council would also be left to EM Services to decide.
It is clear that EM Services has been engaged by the Town Council to be its managing agent. Did they go through a tender process? On the 21st of May, Mr Sitoh had not taken control of the Town Council yet. On the 27th of May, he is already able to confirm that EM Services has been appointed as the Managing Agent.
So, is it a case of the Town Council Chairman having full discretion to invite any company to be the Managing Agent of a Town Council? Is this the manner in which other Managing Agents are appointed in other Town Councils? EM Services currently manages 8 Town Councils. How was the company appointed? Was there a tender process? In the interest of transparency, I hope that there was a tender process through which EM Servies was appointed as the Managing Agent.
Potong Pasir residents should write to their Town Council to find out the process by which EM Services was chosen to be the Managing Agent of the Town Council. Don’t forget that EM Services currently manges Sembawang Town Council (where questions have arisen over how there was easy access to the water tank where a corpse had been disposed).
Of course, it also does not help that Mr Ang Mong Seng is the chief operating officer of EM Services. As I always insist, conflict of interest is not merely an issue of whether there was an actual conflict but also an issue of whether the appearance of conflict could exist. This has to be avoided to bring governance to a higher standard.