AHTC 'frustrated' process of straightening out accounts

Aljunied-Hougang office at block 701, Hougang Ave 2.
Aljunied-Hougang office at block 701, Hougang Ave 2.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee yesterday said the Workers' Party-run town council had "slowed down, prolonged and frustrated" the process of straightening out its accounts.

Among other things, he said, the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) had refused to jointly appoint an accountant with the People's Action Party-run Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC).

AHTC had been ordered to appoint an independent accountant to look into its books by the Court of Appeal last November, following serious governance and financial lapses being discovered at the town council by the Auditor- General's Office.

AHTC appointed KPMG for the task in March. Separately, PRPTC had hired PWC to audit the accounts of Punggol East constituency, which it took over after the WP lost the constituency in last September's General Election.

Yesterday, Mr Lee said PRPTC had done so to comply with the apex court's order.

He said that, since the town council had taken over management of Punggol East from the WP, it was required to get to the bottom of the constituency's accounts as "all the rights and obligations and liabilities of Punggol East flow on to its successor organisation".

He added that PRPTC had wanted to jointly appoint an accountant with AHTC, but was rebuffed.

"It would have been ideal if both town councils addressed one set of accountants" as it was less likely to lead to duplicated work, he said.

But Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) said that the Court of Appeal, at a July hearing over the issue, had "declined to answer" if PRPTC was required to comply with the court order.

At the hearing, the court directed the accountants of the two town councils to work with each other and share documents the other side would need.

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC), the chairman of AHTC, added that he was "a bit surprised" to find out how important the joint appointment was, given that the Housing Board had not raised the matter to the Court of Appeal last November.

Rachel Au-Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2016, with the headline 'AHTC 'frustrated' process of straightening out accounts'. Print Edition | Subscribe