SINGAPORE: Former chairman of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) Sylvia Lim “misled everyone”, and lied that the town council had to upscale its own computer system because an IT firm terminated the system in use at the time in 2011, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh charged on Thursday (Oct 18).
Mr Singh, the lawyer representing the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council in a civil lawsuit against Workers’ Party MPs Ms Lim, Mr Pritam Singh and Mr Low Thia Khiang over flawed governance of AHTC, said that Ms Lim led everyone to believe that the upscaling of the system came as a result of IT firm Action Information Management (AIM) withdrawing its Town Council Management System (TCMS) in 2011.
AIM gave its notice of termination on June 22, 2011, the High Court heard on Thursday. However, preparations for the upscaling of Hougang Town Council’s existing software to suit the larger constituencies of Aljunied and Hougang combined started well before, he said.
At the heart of the defence presented by Ms Lim and her fellow defendants is that the actions taken by them – setting up managing agent FMSS and upscaling the computer system – were in the best interests of the residents, as the town council was purportedly left without a managing agent, and without a computer system to work with after WP won Aljunied GRC in the 2011 General Election.
But Mr Singh pointed to email evidence and letters that showed that the town council had moved towards upscaling its computer system before AIM terminated it.
One such letter was dated May 13, 2011, from Ms How Weng Fan, the secretary of Hougang Town Council, on bringing in a computer vendor.
Mr Singh said: “In other words, before the 13th of May when this letter was sent out, it had already been decided that the Hougang Town Council computer vendor would be asked to upscale the computer system, right?”
“It could have been on the 13th itself, but I agree that it would have to happen before the letter went out,” Ms Lim replied.
She said that she and her colleagues were worried that AIM would terminate its contract, based on their past experience.
But Mr Singh retorted that the concerns were not expressed in any emails. He also pointed out that AIM had extended its services to AHTC to Aug 31, 2011, when the town council requested it, after its original termination date of Aug 1.
MS LIM “MISLED EVERYONE”: MR SINGH
Mr Singh also accused Ms Lim of lying in her affidavit, in which she said that Mr Jeffrey Chua, who was CPG’s managing director and general manager of Aljunied Town Council, informed the WP chairman and Ms How in early June 2011 that AIM would withdraw the TCMS.
“My sense was that Jeffrey gave us this ‘heads up’ so that we could make the necessary preparations,” Ms Lim wrote in her affidavit. “In the circumstances, AHTC started urgent preparations for the withdrawal of the TCMS by upscaling the Hougang SMC computer software.”
Mr Singh said: “It’s a false impression, isn’t it? Suggesting that you started the upscaling after Jeffrey had told you that AIM was going to withdraw? Yes or no? In saying that AHTC started urgent preparations for the withdrawal of the TCMS by upscaling the software after Jeffrey had given Ms How the heads up, is not true.”
Ms Lim denied the charge, saying that some preparatory work would have started in anticipation of the withdrawal of the TCMS.
Mr Singh also turned to an extract of a speech Ms Lim gave in Parliament in February 2015. Ms Lim was responding to then-minister for national development Khaw Boon Wan, who raised the Auditor-General’s report on the audit of Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC). The report had found that there were “deficiencies” in AHPETC’s financial and accounting systems, among other things.
In her response in Parliament, Ms Lim said: “For the first contract in 2011 for managing agent services, it was triggered as the incumbent managing agent, CPG Facilities Management, asked to be released from the contract with the town council for business reasons. There was an urgent need to put in place a computer system due to the termination of the former system in use.”
Addressing Ms Lim, Mr Singh said: “You see the words ‘due to’? Ms Lim. In your defence you gave the impression that it was because AIM had terminated that AHTC had to upscale its computer system.
“In Parliament, you gave that very same impression. To your own town council members, both in the report and what was discussed, you continued to give that impression as well.
“In all the instances I have shown you, you led the town councillors, the court, Parliament, and the public, to believe that it was because AIM had terminated that AHTC had no choice but to upscale. And therefore was put in a difficult position as far as its collections were concerned. Correct?”
Ms Lim agreed.
“And as we know, from the documents, that was a false impression,” Mr Singh continued. “That was knowingly and deliberately perpetuated by you because you knew the facts.”
“I disagree,” Ms Lim said.
Mr Singh charged that she had “misled everyone. You gave them the false impression, including in Parliament in this passage I’ve read, that AIM terminated, and therefore we had to upscale. You lied”.
“I disagree,” Ms Lim replied.
The trial resumes on Friday with Ms Lim returning to the stand.