AHTC did not manage to resolve outstanding accounts issues in past month, says accountant

SINGAPORE - The Aljunied Hougang Town Council has not made much headway in the past month in resolving a list of outstanding financial and governance issues, said its accountant, KPMG, on Thursday (Sept 15).

But the Workers' Party-run town council has resolved 17 of the 71 control failures in its accounts and work processes that the accounting firm found.

KPMG said that since it released its last report on the town council's accounts in August, "no audit points were resolved".

The accounting firm added that while AHTC has taken steps to address some of these points - issues flagged by the town council's auditors in past audits - it has not done enough to comply with the Town Councils Act.

Some of the plans put in place by the town council to address the issues have not been fully implemented and some have not been tested, said KPMG.

There were also some measures AHTC implemented that were found lacking by KPMG.

Since the town council appointed KPMG in March to look into its books, it has resolved three of the 17 audit points.

The accounting firm gave these latest updates on the town council's accounts in their sixth report, which AHTC put on its website on Thursday.

AHTC had appointed KPMG following significant lapses in governance found by its own auditors and the Auditor-General's Office in a special report in February last year.

In a statement on Thursday, AHTC pointed out that it had made "satisfactory progress" in addressing an issue with its temporary clearing accounts, one of the major areas among the 17 audit points.

KPMG had highlighted AHTC's slow progress in investigating the items in the accounts in its August report. Of the more than one million transactions in 18 temporary accounts to be cleared, AHTC had cleared only 599 by then.

In its latest report, KPMG said: "AHTC informed us that it has reorganised its finance department resources to expedite the clearing of the temporary accounts and that progress on clearing temporary accounts is satisfactory."

The town council also said it had completed tests on its service and conservancy charges S&CC) arrears reports for the months of May to July.

This follows an earlier finding by KPMG of programming errors and omissions of certain requirements in the systems used by the town council to generate S&CC reports.

Other than the audit points, KPMG also provided an update on the 71 control failures highlighted in its July report and the steps taken by AHTC to resolve them.

Of these control failures, 17 have been successfully addressed.

One of them had to do with incorrect data being used to generate the town council's April S&CC report submitted to the Ministry of National Development (MND). The town council has since corrected the error and resubmitted the report to MND on Aug 16.

Another issue had to do with the lack of written roles and responsibilities for the town council's finance department staff. This has also been rectified.

AHTC also said in it statement that it is working with KPMG to complete, by the end of September, a review of past payments it has made.

The town council was to have submitted a report on this to the Housing Board by the end of August, but had asked for an extension until the end of September.

KPMG is reviewing the past payments made by the town council to determine if any were improper and ought to be recovered, following a Court of Appeal order last November.

The town council's senior officers were also owners and directors of its managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), and had approved payments to their own company. The town council contract with FMSS ended in July last year.