The big white elephant is not just seen my netizens but by all ordinary people except for the PAP and their staunch supporters. Two days ago, highly respected ex-PAP MP and presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock question the sale of software to AIM:
"So did the town councils as public institutions do the right thing, selling (the system) to a company owned by a political party with its own agenda?" - Tan Cheng Bock.
PAP MP Baey Yam Kam argued that town councils "are not public institutions;" but are "political organisations" run by political parties[Link]. He seemed to be saying that because town councils are political organisations, the conflict of interest just does occur in the AIM deal. This the first time I heard of this political "role" of town councils - just because the people filling various positions are from competing political parties does not make town councils political organisations. Our prime minister is from PAP but he is the prime minister for the whole country including those who voted for the opposition - if he forgets his role, he will be in trouble.
PM Lee has called for a review of the AIM transaction. The review will also examine the role of town councils.
'The simmering issue, which gave rise to numerous statements being exchanged between both sides over the "public interest", will be reviewed "in the interest of transparency and maintaining trust in the system' - PM Lee's statement[Link]
One factor that affected trust in the govt that cannot be repaired now regardless of findings of this review committee is the way the AIM saga came to light. The public only learned about AIM (and AIM being a PAP company) after WP tried to explain its town council's performance. Much of the information that pointed to important possible issues were initially gathered by netizens. Only when the pressure mounted did the govt release more information. Things could have turned out a lot better for the PAP if the town councils had been completely transparent in 2010 when AIM was awarded the contract. If the people who made the decision knew that they had to explain it to the public they would have been more careful and conscientious. Continuous transparency and voluntary transparency helps to resolve problems early and improve decision making. Countries and organisation implement what is known as a freedom of information act (FOIA) so that information all information so long as it does not affect national security and national interest. Instead of the FOIA, the PAP implemented the draconian OSA (official secrets act) [Link].
Today, even restaurants have open kitchens so that you can see how your food is cooked before you enjoy it. The cook will re-cook the food with fresh ingredients if he accidentally drops it on the floor. One quarter of chefs would serve you food from the floor if nobody sees it [Link]. There no point explaining that the floor is clean after you're caught. Being transparent "after the fact", will not help to fully repair the damage to trust and reputation that could have been prevented by having transparency all the time.
I don't expect the PAP to change or improve much in this area - secrecy seems to be in deep in their DNA, a common trait among less democratic..authoritarian type govts. I do see opportunity here for opposition parties to show they can find ways to give the public more information ...that we don't have a 1st world govt does not mean we should not have a 1st world opposition when it comes to transparency....how else is it going to check and challenge the govt to do better.