Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council issue

AHPETC submits accounts on time

Hougang MP Png Eng Huat and Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim holding a copy of Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council's latest annual report for financial year 2014/2015 during the introduction of the party's candidates for the general election
Hougang MP Png Eng Huat and Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim holding a copy of Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council's latest annual report for financial year 2014/2015 during the introduction of the party's candidates for the general election.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

The Workers' Party (WP) town council submitted its accounts on time yesterday and said it had an annual surplus of $1.7 million, if government grants were taken into account.

But this set of accounts still failed to receive a clean bill of health from its own auditors.

The town council's auditor, Audit Alliance, qualified the accounts over late transfers to the sinking fund and erroneous payments out of the sinking fund, and gave a disclaimer of opinion as it was unable to determine the accuracy and validity of several items in the council's accounts.

Other than that, the auditor said, proper records had been kept in line with the law.

By filing yesterday, Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) met the Aug 31 deadline for filing audited accounts for financial year 2014/2015.

WP and town council chairman Sylvia Lim said in a note prefacing the accounts that the latest set of accounts also showed a "marked improvement" in the town council's financial position.

She acknowledged that according to the audited accounts, the town council closed the financial year in deficit.

But if government grants worth $7.2 million, which it had yet to receive, were taken into account, then it would have an operating surplus of $1.7 million.

The grants were withheld by the Ministry of National Development (MND) after serious financial and governance lapses were uncovered at the town council by the Auditor-General's Office.

"Taking into account the $7.2 million in grant which AHPETC expects to receive, AHPETC's annual income and expenditure statement would show an annual surplus of $1.7 million," said Ms Lim.

In an open letter released online to residents of all three WP constituencies, Ms Lim said: "The current positive position came about through a combination of steps taken by AHPETC.

"These included lowering its utilities costs by using contestable energy, reducing its general and administrative expenditure, and increasing its revenue."

Ms Lim's letter comes two days after the MND's strongly-worded statement on former managing agent FM Solutions and Services' (FMSS) net after-tax profit of $2 million after paying its directors and shareholders fees and salaries amounting to $1.14 million in FY2013-FY2014.

In the same period, the town council suffered an operating deficit of $2 million.

Ms Lim had also refuted allegations that AHPETC was bankrupt and running huge deficits that were not sustainable, calling them "misguided".

She explained that the town council's past operating deficit was largely the outcome of "higher tender price for various service contracts and start-up costs".

Ms Lim's letter comes on the eve of Nomination Day when the WP is expected to field 28 candidates in all for the Sept 11 polls.

The WP will hope to build on ground gained at the polls in 2011 where it took on the People's Action Party in Aljunied GRC and won.

Running AHPETC has been "difficult" in the initial years after the WP took over Aljunied, she said.

"AHPETC management believed that it could improve the (town council's) financial position, and the latest audit shows that it has," she added.

"We expect to further consolidate and improve AHPETC's financial position going forward."

Tham Yuen-C

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline 'AHPETC submits accounts on time'. Print Edition | Subscribe