SINGAPORE — The Ministry of National Development (MND) said on Thursday (5 December) that it “remains concerned” about the financial affairs of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and would consider whether regulatory action is needed to ensure proper safeguarding of public monies managed by Town Councils.
In a media release, MND noted the recent court decision on AHTC’s financial management under Workers’ Party (WP) Aljunied GRC MPs Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang, and AHTC’s decision not to recuse Lim and Low from dealing with its financial matters.
The High Court in October ruled 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.
High Court judge Kannan Ramesh said that Lim and Low had breached their fiduciary duties while Pritam had breached his duties of skill and care in the hiring of the town council’s managing agent FM Solutions & Services (FMSS).
Following the ruling, Parliament passed a motion on 5 November calling on AHTC to recuse Lim and Low - an AHTC vice-chair and member respectively - from the council’s financial matters. At the same sitting, Lim called the motion “premature” and informed Parliament that the WP MPs had decided to file an appeal against the High Court’s decision to the Court of Appeal.
Last Saturday, AHTC chairman Faisal Manap, who is also the Aljunied GRC MP, said the council voted 17 to 1 against the recusal of Lim and Low from AHTC’s financial matters at its recent quarterly meeting.
In its release on the financial statements and management of Town Councils for the 2018 financial year, MND said that for good governance, AHTC should take interim measures to safeguard its procurement and payment processes immediately. Until such time when the court’s findings are reversed through the appeal process, “they remain good and should be taken seriously by AHTC”, it added.
“In particular, MND remains concerned as to whether the measures implemented under KPMG’s guidance are adequate to guard against a recurrence of the past control failures if Ms Lim and Mr Low continue to be involved with AHTC’s financial affairs, especially since the adequacy of the measures is entirely dependent on their implementation by the individuals involved with AHTC’s financial affairs.”
KPMG, the accountants appointed by AHTC following a court order in 2015, had assisted the council to deal with its financial matters and shortcomings over 24 months.
MND said it wrote to AHTC on Wednesday to request for information on AHTC’s reasons for not requiring Lim’s and Low’s recusal on AHTC’s financial matters, and on whether AHTC intends to implement other interim measures or safeguards.
“Upon receiving AHTC’s response, MND will further consider whether regulatory action needs to be taken in order to ensure the proper safeguarding of public monies entrusted to Town Councils.”