PA gave boot to family-run cafe as it needed money for social assistance schemes

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The People’s Association (PA) has defended its decision to give the boot to a local, family-run cafe in Nee Soon South Community Club. It said that public tender for the site was called according to government procurement rules, and that it decided to award the tender to a higher bidder.

Singapore based British humour columnist and author, Neil Humphreys, had on 19 May shared in his Facebook that a popular, family-run cafe which has been at Nee Soon South Community Club for the last 12 years, has been asked to go.

Mr Humphreys said that the cafe, Buddy Hoagies Cafe and Grill, produces a healthy menu at a reasonable price for Nee Soon residents. They would have had to vacate the place earlier if not for the intervention of the MP (Dr Lee Bee Wah). With the MP’s intervention, the cafe had a one month extension at the Community Club.

Commenting on talks that the American fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken would be coming in place of the family-run cafe at the location, Mr Humphreys said in jest: “Because I was just thinking how we needed to see another local, popular family-run eatery moved out so another American fast food franchise could move in.”

He said that it is sad that a local enterprise which has healthy food options for heartlanders is not better rewarded.

The PA’s spokesman said that a fresh tender was called because Buddy Hoagies Cafe and Grill‘s 6-year lease was running out and that the “current tenant submitted a bid that was significantly lower than the eventual winner.”

“The grassroots committee (headed by Grassroots Advisor Dr Lee Bee Wah) decided to award it to the eventual winner after taking into consideration many factors,” she added.

CC space is leased to offer useful services to meet the needs of the community, the spokesman further explained in saying “rental income from such leases helps keep community programmes affordable and accessible to all. This also helps support CCs’ local social assistance schemes.”

Budget 2016 had however allocated almost $900 million to PA to run its community programmes, and to keep it affordable as well as accessible to all. The Budget allocation is also for supporting the CC’s local assistance schemes (link: http://bit.ly/25g9hIs).

In April 2016, Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim had also questioned the Budget allocation for PA and asked if the statutory board had deviated from its mandated. Mr Chan Chun Sing assured the opposition party MP that PA will remain non-partisan and to inform him if there are any instances of wrongdoing. “I guarantee you I will follow up. I will be the last person to ever allow the PA to be politicised,” he told her.

The current owners of the Cafe said that they were “shocked’ that the tender was not awarded to them and that besides not bidding a low sum, they had also undertaken to spend $190,000 on renovations to the kitchen and dining area, and this was part of her tender proposal.

Mr Humphreys meanwhile in another Facebook post said that he is surprised how Singaporeans had turned out in fairly large numbers to support the local, family-run cafe soon after he shared its plight earlier.

picture credit: Neil Humphreys
picture credit: Neil Humphreys

“You write one post about a closing, family-run cafe and how it’s indicative of the state’s soulless obsession with profit over national identity/character … and Singaporeans turn up in their hundreds to support the place. Marvellous!” – Neil Humphreys