AHTC wants more time to pick Big Four firm

The Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) is writing to the Court of Appeal to ask for more time to appoint a Big Four accounting firm to examine its books.

On Jan 22, the court ordered AHTC to pick accountants from a Big Four firm within two weeks. The deadline was yesterday.

The town council said yesterday that while it initiated contact with one of the firms on Jan 23, it needed "more time to provide information relevant to the appointment of the accountants to the HDB".

AHTC added in a statement that it "will be writing to the court to request an extension".

In a separate statement, the Housing Board told The Straits Times that it had been informed by AHTC about the need for an extension to the court-mandated deadline.

The HDB said: "The Court of Appeal, in its judgment, stated that, as this was a matter of public interest and involving public funds, it should not be delayed further.

"AHTC has informed HDB that it requires more time before it can provide HDB with the relevant information concerning its proposed accountants. HDB has no objection to AHTC's request for time extension but has requested that AHTC write to the Court of Appeal to request that the deadline for appointment be extended."

In the Jan 22 ruling, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said the accountants' task "should not be underestimated" as they had to make sure a public body was fulfilling its legal obligations, and using its public funds properly.

The three-judge apex court also set April 15 as the deadline for the accounting firm to submit its first monthly progress report to HDB.

The town council saga hit the headlines last year when the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) highlighted lapses in governance and compliance with the law by the town council since 2011.

The National Development Ministry, and later HDB, applied to have the court appoint independent accountants to look into the town council's books. In November last year, the Court of Appeal ordered AHTC to appoint accountants to fix lapses uncovered by the AGO.

A combination of objections by HDB to the town council's choices - and withdrawals by two firms initially picked by AHTC - led to the Jan 22 order by the court that AHTC pick from a Big Four firm.

These would be PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young.

• Additional reporting by Chong Zi Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 06, 2016, with the headline 'AHTC wants more time to pick Big Four firm'. Print Edition | Subscribe