Punggol East's accounts: PwC seeks more info

PwC said it needed additional documents from Aljunied-Hougang Town Council to get an accurate picture of Punggol East's financial situation.
PwC said it needed additional documents from Aljunied-Hougang Town Council to get an accurate picture of Punggol East's financial situation. PHOTO: ST FILE

An independent accountant appointed to look into the accounts of Punggol East constituency has run into roadblocks because it has not received information it needs, said the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC).

Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), in a progress report last month, said it needed additional documents from Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) to get an accurate picture of Punggol East's financial situation.

Punggol East used to be part of the former Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC). It came under PRPTC after the People's Action Party won it back from the WP in last September's general election.

Yesterday, PRPTC chairman Zainal Sapari said PwC will not be able to audit Punggol East's accounts without the documents, some of which relate to billings and receipts.

This review is necessary because, with Punggol East changing hands, PRPTC has to comply with an appeals court order made last December requiring the WP town council to appoint accountants to look into its books and establish if past payments made were improper.

The court order follows the Auditor-General finding serious financial and governance lapses at the town council.

Yesterday, the PRPTC said it owed a duty to its residents to ensure all was in order.

"This duty is all the more acute because of the highly troubling findings and observations in the Auditor-General's report and the Court of Appeal's judgment, both of which flagged serious issues and lapses on the part of AHPETC," it said.

The town council also said it wants to make sure all the property and rights due to it have been transferred.

PwC had listed in its first monthly report that some AHPETC legacy issues may affect the accuracy of Punggol East's accounts, including inadequacies in accounting systems. This may affect the accounts and opening balances to be transferred to PRPTC.

It added that PRPTC had asked to meet AHTC on four occasions since February, but did not get a response.

PwC also said Punggol East is no longer contravening the Town Council Act because it has come under PRPTC's systems and processes. Hence, it proposed that the monthly report ordered by the court be done away with.

Yesterday, the Housing Board said it agreed with the recommendation and added that PRPTC "has not had a history of control issues".

It also urged both town councils to work together. "As public monies are at stake, HDB trusts that the town councils and their accountants will carry out thorough and robust checks, to assure residents and the public that all of AHPETC's non-compliances have been fully resolved and that any improper payments have been identified and recovered," it said.

PRPTC said it had proposed in December to AHTC that they jointly appoint an accountant. AHTC said "no" in March.

Responding to media queries, AHTC chairman Pritam Singh said his town council will issue a statement "in due course".

Lim Yan Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2016, with the headline 'Punggol East's accounts: PwC seeks more info'. Print Edition | Subscribe