FMSS issues legal letter to AHPETC, says it is owed $3.5m

FMSS issues legal letter to AHPETC over monies owed for services

NOT RENEWED: The Aljunied- Hougang- Punggol East Town Council had ended its contract with its managing agent FM Solutions & Services last month.

The former managing agent of Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) has sent a letter of demand, saying the town council owes it more than $3.5 million.

The New Paper has learnt that the managing agent, FM Solutions & Services (FMSS), sent the letter, dated July 20, through its lawyers, Netto & Magin.

This comes at a time when the Ministry of National Development is asking AHPETC whether it overpaid FMSS and, if so, how it plans to claim back public monies that allowed FMSS to make huge profits. (See report on facing page.)

FMSS was incorporated in 2011 soon after the Workers' Party (WP) won the Aljunied group representation constituency in the 2011 General Election. (See report on page 4.)

The company was the managing agent for the town council between July 15, 2011, and July 14 this year.

The relationship between the two parties soured following the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) report in March.

Six days after WP did not renew FMSS's contract, the company demanded to be paid monies owed between April and July 14.

Town council staff said AHPETC and FMSS had been locked in talks over financial matters for several months.

AHPETC had initially tried to claw back $250,000, which was later raised to $450,000, from monies paid to FMSS.

FMSS, in turn, is claiming not to have been paid for services provided between April and July 14, when its contract with the town council was not renewed.

The talks broke down when one of the four FMSS directors, Mr Danny Loh, died on June 27 while holidaying in Japan.

The letter of demand, which TNP saw last week, said: "Our clients instruct us that despite repeated requests and demands, you have neglected, failed and/or refused to pay the amounts due fully, in time, as and when invoices and statements of accounts were sent to you from time to time, particulars of which you are fully aware of.

WITHIN SEVEN DAYS

"Take notice that if the sum of $3,520,722.13 together with further interests as aforesaid, are not paid by you directly to our clients or to us as solicitors for our clients within SEVEN (7) days from the date hereof, we have firm instructions to commence proceedings against you without further reference to you.

"In that event you shall also be liable for legal costs incurred by our client."

TNP understands that AHPETC is trying for a mediation session with FMSS over the letter of demand.

The AGO report in March had found accounting and governance lapses in the town council when FMSS was the managing agent.

AHPETC had also submitted its accounts to its own auditors, Audit Alliance, who highlighted several areas of concern in its report, including that of related-party transactions to do with FMSS.

All four directors behind FMSS also held key positions in AHPETC. (See report on page 4.)

Following a separate ad-hoc review of FMSS auditor Teo Liang Chye & Co, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority found that FMSS had made a handsome profit.

The WP has been running AHPETC on its own since last month when it failed to find a managing agent in its three-week tender last November.

The tender did not attract a single bid, not even from FMSS.

Would AHPETC continue to work with FMSS, TNP asked AHPETC vice-chairman Png Eng Huat.

He said: "Ah, no, no. I think we are on self-management, so we will give self-management a run."

TNP approached the three remaining directors of FMSS but they declined comment.

AHPETC also declined comment when asked about the letter of demand.

"In addition, MND notes that AHPETC had an operating deficit of $1.5 million in financial year 2012/2013 and a further deficit of $2 million in financial year 2013/2014."

— Ministry of National Development in its statement on Saturday

 

BY THE numbers

$3,520,722.13 - Amount of money that FMSS is asking for in its letter of demand to AHPETC

Sylvia Lim accuses PAP of using MND to attack WP

WP chairman accuses PAP of using MND to score political points

Mr Png Eng Huat (left) and Ms Sylvia Lim holding up the FY 2014/2015 financial report for Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council.

Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim has accused the People's Action Party (PAP) of using the Ministry of National Development (MND) to make political attacks against the opposition party.

"To me, this is just an example of how a dominant ruling party, as the Government, can use government departments to make political attacks on their political opponents," a defiant Ms Lim said yesterday during the WP's fourth round of introducing its potential candidates.

"It is a huge government machinery that we have right now. If anything, I think this town council episode shows how the huge machinery can try to eat you up."

In a letter to the WP and a statement on Saturday, the MND accused FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) of "grossly profiteering" at the expense of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

It said the former managing agent of AHPETC had made a net after-tax profit of $2 million for the financial year 2013/2014, while AHPETC suffered an operating deficit of $2 million in the same period.

The profit was after FMSS had paid its directors/shareholders fees and salaries amounting to $1.14 million.

For FY 2012/2013, FMSS made an after-tax profit of more than $500,000.

MND said it was "abnormal" for FMSS to make a 300 per cent increase in profits compared with the previous year.

It also said an Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) audit, that found FMSS had paid itself a handsome profit, supported its concern that the town council had overpaid FMSS excessively. AHPETC was FMSS' only client.

'APPALLED'

"In addition, MND notes that AHPETC had an operating deficit of $1.5 million in financial year 2012/2013 and a further deficit of $2 million in financial year 2013/2014," MND said.

Hours after receiving MND's letter, Ms Lim replied to the ministry on Saturday: "We are appalled at the series of careless accusations made by your ministry against AHPETC.

"It is shocking that despite our clarifications on your allegations relating to lost monies and overpayment, your Ministry continues to make spurious statements to distract the public and aimed at politically discrediting AHPETC."

At her party's Syed Alwi Road headquarters yesterday, Ms Lim, who is also past chairman of AHPETC, told reporters she had received the letter on Saturday morning and was told that MND was still reviewing the findings.

She said: "So even before they finish their review, they see it fit to release a media statement. I suppose one can only assume that they are in overdrive to find something before Polling Day."

She disagreed with MND's findings, reiterating that town councils should not be held responsible for how profitable their contractors are as it is "not the normal way that people do businesses".

Also present was WP council member and AHPETC vice-chairman Png Eng Huat, who asked voters to pay attention to AHPETC's financial statement for FY 2014/2015 when it is filed today.The WP was late in handing up its FY 2013/2014 report to MND. It was due on Aug 31 last year but was submitted on June 30 this year.

The current Aug 31 deadline was set in February during a parliamentary debate when MND said the state of affairs at AHPETC was "clearly unacceptable".

Mr Png, former MP for Hougang, said the latest statement will show a surplus if it takes into account the $7.2 million service and conservancy charge operating grants owed to AHPETC.

"Residents must take a look into the account to see are there any improvements made. You must see the trending (from 2012 to today)... if there are any improvements. I'll leave it to the residents to judge," he said.

"It is shocking that despite our clarifications on your allegations relating to lost monies and overpayment, your Ministry continues to make spurious statements to distract the public and aimed at politically discrediting AHPETC."

- Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim

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Thousands sign petition to help sisters sentenced to be gang raped

Over 120,000 signatures have been collected for a petition to help two sisters from India who were sentenced to be gang raped by their village elders. 

The sentence was handed down by a council of men in the village of Sankrot in Baghpat district, Uttar Pradesh, on July 30 after the girls' brother eloped with a married woman from a higher caste. 

According to The Telegraph, the man's family is said to be from the "Dalit" caste, known as the "untouchables", while the woman is from the "Jat caste". 

Meenakshi Kumari, 23, and her 15-year-old sister, who has not been named, had been sentenced to be raped and paraded naked with their faces blackened, for their brother's crime, reported Time.com.  

They ran away to the capital and submitted a petition for protection to the Supreme Court, but face arrest if they return home, said Mail Online. 

A petition to demand justice for the sisters was started by human rights group Amnesty International. 

On its site, the group said: "Nothing could justify this abhorrent punishment. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it’s against the law. Demand that the local authorities intervene immediately."

Sources: Time.com, The Telegraph, Mail Online

 

NSP lodges police report over 'Katonggate' break-in

The National Solidarity Party have lodged a police after four strangers entered their offices without permission.
The National Solidarity Party have lodged a police after four strangers entered their offices without permission.

The National Solidarity Party (NSP) have filed a police report after claiming that four strangers entered their office premises located Katong without permission on Tuesday (Aug 25) night.

The beleaguered opposition party, which has been rocked in recent weeks by the loss of potential candidates, said in a Facebook post that the quartet were seen taking photographs and videos of their plans for the upcoming general election.

 

 

KATONGGATE GE2015Last Monday night, 24 August, Party Leaders met at the offices of a Party member to discuss...

Posted by National Solidarity Party on Saturday, 29 August 2015

 

When approached by an "eyewitness", the unknown persons claimed they were from the media.

NSP labelled the incident Katonggate, likening it to the 1970s' US Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, a Republican, after five burglars who were caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee's offices at the Watergate complex were linked back to Nixon's presidential re-election committee.

According to a comment made by the NSP's official Facebook account, "sensitive information" had been left on a whiteboard following a party meeting on Monday.

While nothing was stolen or damaged, the party said it had filed a police report and made CCTV footage, showing the four intruders, available to authorities for investigation.

The NSP has been beset by problems in the lead-up to the upcoming polls on Sept 11.

Acting secretary-general Hazel Poa resigned from the party after its central executive council (CEC) made a u-turn on a decision to allow the Workers' Party face the People's Action Party unchallenged in the contest for MacPherson SMC.

Mr Steve Chia, who has been earmarked to lead NSP's bid for MacPherson, later announced that he would not be running in the SMC after receiving abuse online, highlighting a profile of himself created by online trolls meant to smear his reputation.

Party president Sebastian Teo was also discredited in a similar manner, forcing him to make an attempt to clear the air on social media.

CEC member Mohamed Fazli Talip then announced his resignation after Mr Chia's withdrawal from MacPherson.

Singapore, help this woman find her dad's phone

Mrs Samantha Shorten has asked Singaporeans for help to find her dad's missing Samsung Galaxy S4 Black Edition handphone.
Mrs Samantha Shorten has asked Singaporeans for help to find her dad's missing Samsung Galaxy S4 Black Edition handphone.

"...if anyone could help, (the) people of Singapore just might."

So let's give Mrs Samantha Shorten and her dad John Field a hand, people.

Mrs Shorten has made an appeal over social media to Singaporens for help to find Mr Field's missing handphone.

The phone contained several videos of her mother, who passed away recently, playing with her seven grandchildren and Mr Field had "taken huge solace" in watching the videos. 

Even though Mrs Shorten rates the odds at "one in a million", she said in her Facebook post on Friday (Aug 28) that she was "happy to offer a significant reward" for missing phone's "priceless" contents.

The device, a Samsung Galaxy S4 Black Edition in a grey case, went missing on Aug 21 as Mr Field was making his way from Mrs Shorten's Trevose Crescent home in Bukit Timah to Changi Airport Terminal 3 to fly back to the UK.

Ms Samantha Shorten has made an online appeal for her father's missing handphone, a Black Edition Samsung Galaxy S4.
A Samsung Galaxy S4 Black Edition smartphone. PHOTO: SAMSUNG
 

This post has a one in a million chance of being answered but I figured if anyone could help, people of Singapore just...

Posted by Samantha Shorten on Friday, 28 August 2015

At the time of this writing, the post had been shared by nearly 13,000 people on the social media site.

Chiam won't contest in upcoming GE

(Front from left to right) SPP chairman Lina Chiam and SPP secretary general Chiam See Tong with the SPP-DPP Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC team of Mr Bryan Long, Mr Benjamin Pwee, Mr Law Kim Hwee,  Mr Abdillah Zamzuri and Mr Hamim Aliyas.
(Front from left to right) SPP chairman Lina Chiam and SPP secretary general Chiam See Tong with the SPP-DPP Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC team of Mr Bryan Long, Mr Benjamin Pwee, Mr Law Kim Hwee, Mr Abdillah Zamzuri and Mr Hamim Aliyas.

Veteran opposition leader Chiam See Tong will not contest the coming general election.

The Singapore People's Party (SPP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) announced their slate of candidates for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC on Sunday (Aug 30) morning.

Mr Chiam, 80, the SPP's secretary-general, was excluded from the line-up in the constituency he contested in 2011 and will not stand due his age and health, according to his wife Mrs Lina Chiam.

However, Mr Chiam, who was Potong Pasir MP for 27 years, was present to give his backing to the joint team – comprising of DPP secretary-general Benjamin Pwee, 47, DPP chairman Hamim Aliyas, 55, former marketing manager Law Kim Hwee, 55, training company manager Abdillah Zamzuri, 31, and tech entrepreneur Bryan Long, 37 – that will contest under the SPP banner.

Mr Chiam said: "As you've seen for yourself we have a strong team here, a very good line-up. They are professionals with good experience."

Mr Pwee and Mr Hamim, who both contested Bishan-Toa Payoh with Mr Chiam in 2011, both quit their posts in the DPP to join SPP as election rules state that candidates for a GRC team must either come from one party or consist solely of independents.

Mr Pwee will co-lead the team with Mr Long, who is making his GE debut like his fellow SPP teammates, Mr Abdillah and Mr Law.

Despite his exclusion, Mr Chiam nixed suggestions that he was retiring from politics by saying: "I've got a long way to go."

At the last election, Mr Chiam's SPP team garnered 43.1 per cent of Bishan-Toa Payoh's votes against the People's Action Party (PAP) team led by Dr Ng Eng Hen.

Tan Chuan-Jin on...

In a recent interview with The New Paper, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin opened up on topics both personal and professional. Here, we present some of his answers in full

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

Mr Tan on moving from the military to politics:

We think that in the military it’s quite hierarchical. In some sense it is because there’s a hierarchy, there’s a command, structures and all that for the military to function, as with every organisation. But being a national service army, where you have conscripts, you have national servicemen who come back to do their national service duties, ... people will do what they need to do because they’re legally required to.

But they need to go that extra mile, they need to believe in something. You need to believe that the cause is important and necessary. So in order to do that you need to be able to lead. You should not just instruct and command, but how do you inspire, how do you allow individuals to begin to embrace their responsibilities beyond just what they are required to by law, but a passion and the belief that this is important?

So I think in terms of the engagement it’s very similar to what I spend a lot of time doing in the SAF, because you do need to reach out and talk to people at every level.

And in many ways as a public leader today, that’s what I do, and I’ve been actually reaching out to many different groups in different ways.



Mr Tan on his Ministry of Manpower (MOM) experience:

MOM is in many ways a very social ministry. Although you seem to be dealing with manpower as well as economics, it’s a lot more beyond that because it affects everyone’s lives.

How do you look after them in terms of their workplace, safety and health, for example? How do you look after them via the Employment Act to protect them at their workplaces, their rights? How do you ensure that we have a competitive space so that the individuals can be employable?

Jobs and opportunities aren’t about how we contribute to the company. They do, but it’s also about individuals’ livelihood. And I’m acutely aware of the impact of unemployment.

We are in relatively good shape. But I’m always mindful that the data doesn’t really mean anything to the person who’s affected. I always want to qualify that just because it’s 2.9% Singapore citizens being unemployed. You tell that to a person who’s unemployed, he’s like, ‘Yah, but I’m 100% unemployed’.

So it’s also very much about creating jobs and opportunities so that people are able to fulfil their own aspirations. Because there’s a dignity that comes with work, to be able to stand on their own two feet, to be able to provide for themselves and their family. And you need to create an environment for that to happen.

So together with other ministries, coming up with SkillsFuture, to enable that we continue this very aggressive way (in) education and lifelong learning.

Because the world is changing, and if we stop learning and adjusting, you run the risk of being irrelevant. That applies to us as a nation, as an economy, but very much as an individual. So how do we provide the support networks and systems so that individuals can continue on that lifelong learning? It is very much individual responsibility as well. Individuals have to play their part. But how do we support by providing the infrastructure in a way which very few governments do?

So I found that in terms of work, what you do in MOM, the outreach, is quite significant.

People then need to retire. How do you then help to cater to make sure that there is a system, and how do you strengthen it? We do understand people want more flexibility, but with more flexibility, you also have the flip side... Do you then move away from providing for your retirement?

So again, it’s about finding the balance. And I guess it continues on at the ground level as well because by working as an MP on the ground, it allows you to understand issues in a much more intimate way.



Mr Tan on seeing the reality on the ground:

I have an area in Chai Chee where is a bit more lower-income. A lot of rental flats, a range of very complex and different challenges, and literally week in, week out you are thinking of how to help these individuals.

And as you do that, you understand their fairly unique circumstances, and sometimes there are some trends I find.

And that instructs me in my job as a Minister because I know what the challenges are like for some of the lower-income families.

Which is why for example, for the WorkRight campaign, I increased our capacity by ten-fold, for example, to help individuals realise that you are entitled to your CPF contributions, your Workfare contribution.

When you see the individuals grappling with different issues, then you also begin to see how then as a system, how do you also begin to improve, strengthen and adjust the system so that structurally you’re assisting the individuals.

Groundwork allows us to understand better, and for me it has shaped a lot of my own thinking at the broader level. I see the impact of my policies when I tighten manpower. It has a very real impact on companies. It affects real lives. These are not big businesses, these are small businesses which have been in existence for several decades. Small family businesses. They built up something, you know.

But as you try to manage that growth of manpower, invariably it’s tight and some companies are on the brink of collapsing and closing. And it’s not just the economics and finances of that family. It’s the whole emotion of building up something and then seeing it close.

Now it’s important for us to see up close the impact of every policy. Because no policy uniformly benefits everyone exactly the same. There are always pluses and minuses with every policy.

You need to see it in a very unvarnished way so that you begin to realise whether can you nuance your policies. Can there be other measures? So this is where we know that we need to manage the growth of our foreign labour.

But if we believe that there’s something we still need to do and we do believe that that is so, how then do you also assist some of these companies in different ways for them to manage, for them to transit through the most difficult period?



Mr Tan on how the last four years has changed his perspective:

So I would say the last four years have been an insight into some of these things which... as a citizen, were a blur to me.

I didn’t have to go see my MP for any particular issues. But being involved in that way, I realise that it’s a very meaningful way of actually trying to make a difference to people’s lives, and not just low-income families, but middle-class, middle-income families and even those living in better estates.

In that process of interacting and engagement, you pick up concerns, issues, views and that’s where actually it’s not about big government, it’s about an involved government, it’s about engaging and how people play an active part in shaping through these interactions.

I find that quite fulfilling. And I think it allows you to have a deeper sense of how you make a difference to people’s lives in very real ways.

Why you need to watch Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

Captivating stars: (Left to right) Olivia Cooke, Thomas Mann and RJ Cyler

Forget The Fault In Our Stars.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is the young adult movie that will make you re-think life, love, and loss.

The best part? It won't make you a weepy mess. 

Based on Jesse Andrews' 2013 novel, the movie tells the story of Greg (Thomas Mann), a high school senior whose parents force him to hang out with Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a classmate recently diagnosed with leukemia.

That's where any similarities to The Fault In Our Stars end.

The friendship between Greg and Rachel goes from awkward to real as they deal with the progress of Rachel's illness.

 

 

The story also focuses a lot on Greg's struggles to fit in at school, trying to be the person he thinks people want him to be instead of trying to be who he really is.

Greg's coping mechanism? Humour and creativity.

Here are five reasons why Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is going to be one of the most memorable movies of 2015.


It's not a weepie

Don't judge a book by its cover, or in this case, judge a movie by its title.

Yes, it's a movie about cancer and there is a death but director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was very clear he didn't want his film to have any "manipulative" scenes, he told Sydney Morning Herald.

That meant cutting out an emotionally-charged scene where his actors Mann and RJ Cyler (who plays Earl) shaved Cooke's head the day her character starts chemotherapy.

"As powerful as it was, the movie didn't need it, and you never want to put something in there that would make it manipulative," said Gomez-Rejon.

The 42-year-old US filmmaker set out to make a teen comedy and a coming-of-age story in the vein of The Breakfast Club and did his best to avoid cheap sentimentality.

Andrews, who also wrote the screenplay, stayed true to his book, keeping it purely on friendship rather than romance.


It celebrates movies

In the film, Greg and his partner-in-crime - the Earl from the title -  spend much of their time making parodies of classic movies such as Scorsese's Mean Streets and Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

Their versions? A Sockwork Orange, Eyes White Butt, Senior Citizen Cane, and Rosemary Baby Carrots.


It's a Sundance winner

Sundance Film Festival ​is the largest and most prestigious independent film festival in the United States, and if an indie flick gets a good review at the annual event, you can trust it'll be worth your time (remember Little Miss Sunshine?). 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl not only received rave reviews, it also won top honours twice -- the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award.


It's endorsed by Martin Scorsese

​Winning accolades are good but the icing on the cake has to be a job-well-done praise by Martin Scorsese himself.

Gomez-Rejon's first job following his graduation from New York University was as Scorsese's personal assistant, spending his time on the set of Casino watching “the master at work", Gomez-Rejon told NPR. He went on to apprentice under notable directors such as Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu​ and Nora Ephron before working on commercials and TV series like Glee and American Horror Story.

“It’s a wonderful film,” Scorsese tells his former assistant in the above video. “I have an emotional reaction to it, there’s no doubt.”


It's personal

Gomez-Rejon told Rolling Stone he knew what it was like to feel a profound sense of loss and grief, having lost his father shortly before he'd received the Me and Earl script.

"He was a big influence on me and my best friend. I suddenly found myself at a very difficult point in my life -- which, ironically, was the exact same moment I started getting recognised for the work I was doing on American Horror Story."

His directing on the popular TV series earned him an Emmy nomination.

"I had shut down completely. And with Me And Earl, it was like somebody showed me there could be an outlet for all that.

"I could throw myself into this -- not just because it gave me a chance to celebrate movies, but it's a way to pay homage to my dad."

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