PAP-owned company AIM, which was at the centre of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council’s (AHTC) debacle in town council management issues, has been struck off ACRA.
At the ongoing AHTC trial, the defence lawyers said that the audit reports which the lawsuits were based on, failed to recognise the dire circumstances WP MPs and councillors were put into. They argued that at the time when WP took over the running of AHTC after 2011 GE, it was “stripped of its town council management computer system (TCMS)”.
The defence lawyers also pointed out that firm which owned the TCMS, Action Information Management Pte Ltd (AIM), had terminated its contract with AHTC after the Workers’ Party (WP) won the constituency, and refused to let WP continue to use its software.
TCMS software was built for People’s Action Party (PAP) town councils by National Computer Systems (NCS), obviously paid for by residents’ conservancy fees.
In June 2010, the PAP called for an “open tender” to sell TCMS. This was when AIM, a company with a paid-up capital of $2 and owned by PAP, submitted the sole bid and won the rights to buy over the software. It is unclear how much the PAP town councils paid NCS to develop the software, but it was sold to AIM for $140,000. The software was finally transferred to AIM in Jan 2011, 4 months before 2011 General Election.
After the transfer, AIM leased the software back to PAP town councils for a fee of $785 a month. AIM retained NCS to maintain and further develop the system.
AIM did not only have $2 in paid-up capital, but it also only emlpoyed two part-time staff. Its three directors were all former PAP MPs: Mr S. Chandra Das, Mr Chew Heng Ching and Mr Lau Ping Sum.
AIM later terminated its contract with AHTC in Aug 2011, which caused much distress to the WP.
“What justification was there for the Town Councils to relinquish ownership (of the systems) and leave the continuity of the Town Council operations at the mercy of a third party (AIM)? Residents all over Singapore have a right to know,” chairman of WP, Sylvia Lim said in a statement at that time.
Dr Teo Ho Pin, the coordinating chairman of PAP town councils, clarified at that time that that AIM was “fully-owned” by the PAP and that its contract with AIM benefited town councils.
Taking aim at Teo’s clarification, Lim asked why the PAP “had seen it fit to sell away their ownership of the systems, developed with public funds, to a political party, which presumably could act in its own interests when exercising its rights to terminate the contracts”.
Teo defended his actions later explaining why a one month notice was deemed “reasonable”. He explained the reason for PAP town councils selling and leasing the software back from AIM allowed it to terminate the contract with any town council that experiences a “material change in composition”.
“This (the clause) is reasonable as the contractor has agreed to provide services on the basis of the existing (town council) and town boundaries, and priced this assumption into the tender. Should this change materially, the contractor could end up providing services to a town council which comprises a much larger area and more residents, but at the same price.”
He further explained that the sale took place because it was “cumbersome and inefficient” to have 14 individual town councils hold intellectual property rights to the software being used by all of them. He further added that the move to sell resulted in savings of about $8,000 for the town councils.
ACRA’s record shows that AIM’s last Annual General Meeting was held on 30 April 2015.