International Business & Economy Food guru K F Seetoh accuses social enterprise of profiteering at the...

Food guru K F Seetoh accuses social enterprise of profiteering at the expense of hawkers and customers

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Update: This article was edited after clarification from Koufu that the “contract posted by KF Seetoh on his Facebook refers to Hawker Centre @ Tampines Hub by Kopitiam, not Koufu.”

Food guru and Makansutra founder K F Seetoh continued to shine the spotlight on how hawkers under contract to Social Enterprise Hawker Centres (SEHC) are unfairly penalised. Yesterday, Seetoh released several pages of the contract hawkers at SEHC had to sign. Koufu has reached out to this publication and clarified that the contract released by Seetoh yesterday referred to Tampines Hub Hawker Centre, and not Jurong West Hawker Centre.

Seetoh said, the contract which runs 51-pages long includes clauses which not only dictates how much vegetables and calories a particular dish should have, but also how they are supposed to be opened 24 hours a day, with only 2 off days in a year.

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Seetoh said:

“They are supposed to be opened 24hrs a day with 2 off days. And a $250 fine for each other day they close if they did not give a week’s notice which is approved by the managing agent. Imagine if they, or their child or parents have some medical or family emergency. The managing agent can up the penalty to $500 a day if they see fit.

Come on – it’s ok to do so like they all do in private enterprise food courts or halls. Charge as much as you want and pay as much as you dare. Its market forces at play, willing buyer and seller deals- but not in a public funded and owned SEHC or hawker centre please. You have the obligations to protect the common citizen’s economic meal and not raise unnecessary cost for hawkers and customers.

This SEHC contract runs 51 pages and it includes a clause that dictates how much vegetables & calories each dish should have and our beloved nasi lemak may not make the mark unless a cup of cucumbers is added.

Also, and hawkers would be deemed to violate the agreement if they do not maintain an ‘A’ rating from NEA “throughout the term of the contract”. Even established restaurants have problems maintaining it – what of these new and first time hawkers. Cut them some slack. I am sure they are out to make regular customers out of you all with the best effort and practices. They need help to flourish, not rules and penalties.”

https://www.facebook.com/kfseetoh/posts/10156876709832052

Seetoh’s release of the contract comes in the wake of the unhappiness some hawkers at Jurong West Hawker Centre have expressed both to NEA, as well as to Koufu. This hawker centre is run by Hawker Management Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Koufu.

Hawker Management was appointed to run the Jurong West Hawker Centre after the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee, headed by Senior Minister of State Dr Amy Khor submitted her recommendations to the Government in 2017. Part of Hawker 3.0 Committee’s recommendations was focused on partner “key stakeholders on tray-return measures and (in improving) tray-return facilities (to) encourage kind and considerate behaviour”.

Except for speaking in Parliament on October 1st, Dr Khor has kept largely silent on the plight of hawkers under contract to SEHC.

https://theindependent.sg.sg/amy-khor-questioned-on-jurong-west-hawker-centre-tray-return-policy-minister-maintains-radio-silence/

The Hawker 3.0 Committee report also reaffirmed another report submitted to the Government in 2012 – the report of the Hawker Centres Public Consultation Panel comprising 18 representatives. The panel and its representatives proposed having social enterprises or cooperatives to operate hawker centres on a not-for-profit basis. One of the representatives in this panel was Mr Pang Lim, Managing Director of Koufu Pte ltd.

The Jurong West Hawker Centre is runs by Koufu through its social enterprise subsidiary Hawker Management. Koufu is founded by Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC grassroots leader Pang Lim. Mr Pang Lim (PBM), is also the Vice-Chairman of Punggol 21 CC Building Fund Committee as well as Patron of Punggol North CCC and Punggol 21 CCMC.

Hawker Management has outsourced its dish washing and table cleaning services to GreatSolutions Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of another public listed company GS Holdings Ltd. GS Holdings is founded by Mr Pang Pok. According to disclosure in its annual report, Mr Pang Pok is the brother of Mr Pang Lim.

The fine print in the hawkers’ contract disclosed that Mr Pang Pok’s company would provide “centralised on and off-premise dishwashing and table top cleaning” services to Hawker Management, Mr Pang Lim’s company, at $63,775 per month. An initial 3-year contract was signed between the 2 brothers’ companies in Sep last year. Mr Pang Pok is also a grassroots leader.

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