AHTC yet to submit audited statements

Aljunied Hougang Town Council had appointed accounting firm KPMG to look into its books after the Auditor- General's Office found significant governance lapses in a special audit last year.
Aljunied Hougang Town Council had appointed accounting firm KPMG to look into its books after the Auditor- General's Office found significant governance lapses in a special audit last year.ST FILE PHOTO

Delay due to 'significant resources' being devoted to KPMG reviews, says Pritam Singh

The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) has not submitted its latest audited financial statements, the only town council among 16 yet to do so, said the Ministry of National Development (MND) in a statement yesterday.

AHTC had asked for an extension on Aug 12, citing "outstanding issues to resolve with its auditor", the ministry said.

The town council had appointed accounting firm KPMG to look into its books after the Auditor- General's Office found significant governance lapses in a special audit last year.

This is the fourth time the statements have been late since the Workers' Party won Aljunied GRC in May 2011. The town council submitted its statements for the 2014/2015 financial year on time.

MND said it is awaiting a reply from AHTC on when it planned to submit the documents.

AHTC chairman Pritam Singh then said in a statement that it "would not be helpful" to give a date as KPMG is finalising a draft report to determine if any of AHTC's past payments were improper, which could throw up new queries about the financial documents.

"We do not anticipate this to significantly affect the town council's audit of its financial statements for FY15/16. However, as a matter of prudence and professionalism, our auditor would inevitably have to peruse this report carefully before signing off (on them)," he said.

Mr Singh said AHTC wanted to submit its statements on time, as it had last year, but was delayed due to "significant resources" being devoted to KPMG's reviews of its financial processes and past payments.

It also had to finalise and submit the financial statements for Punggol East, and "continues to attend to queries" from the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council's (PRPTC) accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers, he said.

AHTC had also lost some time as its chosen auditor was only approved by MND in May, when such appointments are usually confirmed by March, he added.

The ministry had initially rejected AHTC's proposed auditor but later approved it after an appeal.

In a subsequent statement last night, MND said it initially rejected AHTC's auditor as the firm's proposed partner had failed the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority's Practice Monitoring Programme (PMP), which ensures public accounting firms and accountants comply with standards and procedures.

In its appeal, AHTC assured MND and the Auditor-General's Office that concerns about weaknesses in the town council's accounting system would be addressed by KPMG. MND said AHTC was given the green light in view of this, and because the PMP's findings against the proposed auditor "were not considered severe".

After MND's second statement, Mr Singh responded with a detailed timeline setting out the sequence of how its auditor was eventually appointed, and reiterated AHTC's commitment to submit its audited financial statements to MND "as soon as practicable".

The WP lost Punggol East to the People's Action Party in September last year, and the single-member constituency returned to the fold of PRPTC. Both town councils are in an ongoing dispute over documents needed to review the accounts of Punggol East.

Mr Singh pointed out that AHTC's unaudited financial statements were submitted on time by June 30, but both KPMG and MND had highlighted transactions to look into.

In its second statement, MND said the unaudited statements "contained numerous errors, inconsistencies, and non-compliance with MND guidelines".

 The ministry had earlier noted that AHTC's delay affected PRPTC, which received a qualification on its financial statements "solely because it was not able to confirm the accuracy of the amounts due from AHTC" for Punggol East.

AHTC said it had informed PRPTC in August of the delay.

In its own statement last night, PRPTC said it received the audited financial statements of Punggol East in late September and noted that these were qualified.

It added that it will continue to "pursue a proper handover and accounting" of the Punggol East accounts.

MND said the other 14 town councils submitted unqualified reports.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 23, 2016, with the headline 'AHTC yet to submit audited statements'. Print Edition | Subscribe