MND orders Aljunied-Hougang Town Council to recuse Low, Sylvia from financial decisions

Workers' Party members Low Thia Khiang (left) and Sylvia Lim. (Yahoo News Singapore file photos)

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of National Development (MND) has ordered Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) to recuse town councillors Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang from certain financial decisions, in order to prevent a “recurrence of irregularities” caused by the two Aljunied GRC Members of Parliament (MPs).

In a media statement on Friday (3 January), MND said AHTC has been instructed to strip Lim and Low of the power to unilaterally incur or approve expenditure, accept or waive any quotation or tender or to serve as cheque signatories for AHTC. 

“While we note the measures that AHTC has put in place, it is not apparent – and AHTC has not demonstrated – how they would be effective to guard against a recurrence of irregularities arising from the acts of dishonest Town Councillors,” said the ministry.

It added that the order does not preclude the Workers’ Party (WP) MPs from continuing to serve as elected members of AHTC, and discharging their duties.

Background to the move

In December, MND had said that it “remains concerned” about AHTC’s financial affairs and was considering regulatory action to ensure proper safeguarding of public monies managed by Town Councils.

It followed a decision by AHTC not to recuse Lim and Low from all matters relating to, and oversight over, financial matters of the town council, despite a parliamentary motion in November by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat calling on them to do so.

The High Court found in October that Lim, Low and WP chief Pritam Singh were liable for damages suffered by AHTC, which is said to have made millions in improper payments under their watch. WP is currently appealing the High Court judgement.

MND response to AHTC

In its latest statement, MND alluded to the “serious and grave findings” of the High Court judgement, which found that Lim and Low had “breached their fiduciary duties to AHTC, acted dishonestly, and without integrity and candour”.

It wrote to AHTC on 4 December to request information on AHTC’s reasons for not requiring Lim and Low’s recusal, and whether it intends to implement other interim measures or safeguards. MND received AHTC’s response on 13 December. 

As the ministry was unconvinced by the measures taken by AHTC, it issued the order pursuant to section 43D(2)(b) of the Town Councils Act. It will be reviewed after the High Court rules on the WP’s appeal.

Yahoo News Singapore has reached out to WP for comment.

Related stories

COMMENT: Heng Swee Keat needs to raise his game against Workers' Party

Timeline of Aljunied Hougang Town Council saga from 2011-2019