SINGAPORE - The Workers' Party-run town council on Tuesday assured the High Court that it is on track to meet deadlines to submit its overdue accounts for the financial years 2013 and 2014.
This comes a day after the lawyers for the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), Mr Peter Low and Mr Terence Tan, had dithered when Justice Quentin Loh asked - twice - how likely the town council was to meet the deadlines.
Mr Low had said it was "work in progress" on Monday, at the start of a two-day hearing to decide whether to appoint independent accountants to AHPETC.
But in court on Tuesday, Mr Tan tried to introduce new documents that apparently spell out the progress which AHPETC has made since a special audit by the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) found accounting and governance lapses at the town council.
Justice Loh, however, said this contravened court procedures, and that the documents should have already been included in previously submitted affidavits.
Instead, AHPETC had remained "totally silent" on the issue until Tuesday, he said.
The Ministry of National Development (MND) has set deadlines of June 30 and Aug 31 for the submission of AHPETC's audited accounts for FY2013 and FY2014 respectively.
MND has also made a court application to appoint independent accountants to AHPETC, triggering the current court hearing. The ministry had suggested two names from major accounting firm PwC: partners Ong Chao Choon and Chan Kheng Tek.
But on Tuesday, Mr Low argued that the appointment of PwC partners as the independent accountants might lead to perceptions of "apparent bias".
This was because PwC was the firm that had assisted the AGO in its special audit, he said. The audit's findings were released in February.
But Justice Loh noted that the AHPETC had accepted - in whole - the AGO findings, and did not raise any contentions in the report or in PwC's work.
"Is the auditor doing something unprofessional or wrong if it came across related party transactions, and followed the trail? You can't say that," he said.
"If they show bias if they are appointed, they will be answerable to the court. That should be your bigger assurance."