SDP will hold PAP ministers accountable

James Gomez

In this election, one of SDP priorities in Parliament is to hold PAP Ministers accountable for budgetary blow outs, security issues lapses and for shifting responsibilities onto others.

The Singapore Democrats want to ensure that these severe lapses in public accountability are not easily forgotten. Although not a comprehensive list, we want to remind you of the following key lapses since last elections.

Budgetary blow outs

In the case of the Youth Olympics, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) exceeded the original budget of 104 million to 387 million which more than a 300% jump in costs.

The conversion of the Supreme Court into a museum was initially budgeted at S$320 million but later was raised to S$530 million. There is little public information why the price tag rose by 40%.

In March 2011 it came to light that the Ministry of Manpower spent almost $272,000 to buy a total of 472 Herman Miller chairs for its staff. These expensive chairs cost $575 each while social welfare`s needy have less than that to survive on per month.

These are just several Ministry specific cases of gross under-calculations, failure to spend within budget and irresponsible spending in recent times. The PAP Government and its Ministers have gotten into the habit of wasting public funds without the need of public accountability.

Security lapses

The most serious security lapse is the escape of Mr Mas Selamat Kastari from the Whitley Detention Centre. He escaped through an open toilet window whilst the Centre’s surveillance cameras malfunctioned.

Some three years later, it came to light that Mr Selamat`s family offered him refuge, and for their role they were convicted and sentenced to jail. Mr Wong Kan Seng has not been personally held responsible for this security lapse. And this is not his first.

Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng also failed to accept full responsibility for the breach in security at the MRT depot in Changi in 2010 where an artist broke in to paint Graffiti. Instead the blame was pushed to SMRT.

Shifting the blame

Shifting the blame by PAP Ministers is not new. When Bukit Timah Road flooded in 2009, Environment Minister Yaacob Ibrahim told us it was a once-in-50-years freak incident. When Orchard Road was flooded, the problem was debris in a culvert blocking the water flow. There was always an excuse, no acknowledgement of failure of planning by the Ministry.

In fact, PAP Minister has fallen into the habit of shifting blame on to public servants. When challenged and questioned, they skirted the issue and never answered the question. When Mas Selamat escaped, it was the police officers that were to blame. When the MRT depot was broken into, it was the SMRT officials. When Orchard Road was flooded, it was the PUB officers.

Lack of ministerial responsibility

As the above shows, we have let develop a system where the PAP Ministers do not accept responsibility, apologise to the public or respond to queries to be more transparent in what transpired in these problem areas. Their strategy is not to engage.

If we don’t hold the PAP Ministers accountable they will over spend and blow the budget and continue to pay themselves exorbitant amounts in salaries. They blame everybody else except themselves and we have let them get away with it for too long.

This is why the Singaporean Democrats will be making Ministerial responsibility an important part of their election campaign. We pledge to raise this issue and hold the PAP Ministers accountable in Parliament.

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