Why HDB objected to nominated firms

The Housing Board had objected to the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council's (AHTC) nomination of accounting firms Business Assurance and MRI Moores Rowland, citing the Practice Monitoring Programme (PMP) inspection results of people in the firms.

HDB argued for the PMP record to be disclosed, saying it would show AHTC's selection process was not thorough.

But the town council said the information was unnecessary because both firms had withdrawn from consideration.

The Court of Appeal said the record was relevant and allowed it. But only the firms, and not the individuals, could be named in relation to the PMP results.

After yesterday's hearing, the HDB said in a statement: "This issue of appointing accountants could have been resolved much sooner had the town council carried out proper due diligence, or considered any of the Big Four accountants, as suggested by HDB in the first instance."

PAYING FOR THE DIFFERENCE

We are unable to see how the interests of the town council and the HDB are divergent on the question of the steps that should be taken to ensure compliance with the Town Councils Act, and this is manifest in the HDB's willingness to bear the additional costs involved by the appointment of a more experienced or more qualified firm of accountants.

CHIEF JUSTICE SUNDARESH MENON, on requiring the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council to appoint a Big Four firm

The PMP results revealed in court show:

BUSINESS ASSURANCE

•  An accountant failed an inspection in 2010 and was put on a "hot review", meaning he or she could not sign off on a client's audit report unless a peer agreed it could be done.

• The accountant also failed a follow-up inspection in July and August 2014, and was placed on a six-month restriction on practice from July 13, 2015. This period covers the time when Business Assurance was being considered for appointment as AHTC's accountant.

• A second follow-up inspection has not taken place.

MRI MOORES ROWLAND

• An individual who was previously a public accountant failed the review from September 2009 to November 2009 and was put on a "hot review".

• He or she failed the follow-up inspection conducted from Nov 21, 2012, to Jan 11, 2013. The public accountant licence expired on Dec 31, 2013.

(At an earlier hearing, the court was told that in the team of five accountants MRI Moores Rowland was proposing, only one was a public accountant.)

Chong Zi Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline 'Why HDB objected to nominated firms'. Print Edition | Subscribe