Town councils clash again over Punggol East documents

PRPTC said in a statement yesterday that AHTC had not provided the required documents. AHTC disputed this hours later. The town council (left) said in a statement that it had handed over all documents that relate solely to Punggol East.
PRPTC said in a statement yesterday that AHTC had not provided the required documents. AHTC disputed this hours later. The town council (above) said in a statement that it had handed over all documents that relate solely to Punggol East.ST FILE PHOTO

One party says documents not handed over, the other disputes this

The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) have clashed again over financial documents related to Punggol East constituency, with both sides unable to agree on the documents that have been exchanged.

This led PRPTC to say yesterday that it has applied to appear before the Court of Appeal in a bid to get an order for the Workers' Party-run AHTC to hand over the documents it needs.

Both sides are in a dispute over documents needed to review the accounts of Punggol East. The dispute appeared to be on its way to resolution in August when they reached an agreement in the apex court for PRPTC to have access to documents that relate strictly to Punggol East.

They also agreed to thrash out the conditions for AHTC to hand over other documents that also contain information about other constituencies under the town council.

But PRPTC said in a statement yesterday that despite numerous requests, AHTC had not provided the required documents.

AHTC disputed this hours later. The town council said in a statement that it had handed over all documents that relate solely to Punggol East.

It added that its staff and its independent accountant KPMG have met PRPTC's accountant, PricewaterhouseCoopers, to answer questions about the documents.

Regarding the other category of documents, PRPTC said AHTC had not handed over any of it, but had also not raised any specific concerns about confidentiality.

AHTC said it was in "the final stages" of preparing these documents, which will be handed over once lawyers from both sides agree on the conditions for their release.

The People's Action Party won back Punggol East from the WP in last year's general election, and the single-seat constituency returned to the fold of the PRPTC.

"PRPTC's need to obtain all the documents is all the more acute in the light of the highly troubling findings and observations in the Auditor-General's report and the Court of Appeal's judgment, both of which identified serious issues and lapses on the part of AHPETC," PRPTC said, referring to AHTC by its former name.

In February last year, the Auditor-General's Office said its special audit unearthed major lapses at the then AHPETC.

Audit firm KPMG - hired by AHTC after it was ordered by the Court of Appeal to appoint a Big Four accounting firm to look into its books - is currently helping to fix governance and financial lapses at the town council.

AHTC also said yesterday that it has left Punggol East "in better financial health" than PRPTC had.

It said that when it first took over Punggol East from PRPTC after the Punggol East by-election in 2013, the constituency had $22.5 million in sinking funds. It added that it had handed over the constituency to PRPTC with $26.8 million in sinking funds and $755,000 in accumulated surplus.

This is based on the audited accounts of Punggol East for the period of April to Nov 30 last year, which AHTC said it submitted to PRPTC on Sept 28.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2016, with the headline 'Town councils clash again over Punggol East documents'. Print Edition | Subscribe