Parliament to discuss AHPETC audit, call for stronger laws on town councils

SINGAPORE - When Parliament next sits on Thursday, it will discuss the accounting lapses found in a recent audit of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) and support stronger laws to govern town councils.

It will also call on all town councils to "uphold high standards of accounting, reporting and corporate governance so as to safeguard residents' interests", according to a motion that will be introduced by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

This comes after the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) on Monday publicly released its audit report on AHPETC, after a year-long audit exercise.

Mr Khaw's motion will state that Parliament "notes with concern" the AGO's report, especially the findings on deficiencies in AHPETC's accounting systems, the uncertain accuracy of the town council's accounts and the lack of proper disclosure and oversight of related party transactions.

It will also touch on the risk that AHPETC has failed to properly manage and spend public funds.

AHPETC and Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim said on Monday night that the town council will "give its full response" during the Parliament sitting.

She also asked members of the public to "look beyond the headlines and summaries" and read the details in the report for a better understanding of the issues.

In its 59-page report, the AGO identified five broad areas of weakness in AHPETC's accounting practices.

These involved a failure to transfer monies into its sinking fund on time, inadequate disclosure and supervision of related party transactions leading to conflicts of interest, not putting in place a system to monitor service and conservancy charge arrears, weak internal controls, and deficiencies in the town council's record management and accounting systems.

The AGO concluded: "Unless the weaknesses are addressed, there can be no assurances that AHPETC's financial statements are accurate and reliable, and that public funds are properly spent, accounted for and managed."

rachelay@sph.com.sg