Independent panel appointed to look into improper payments made by AHTC

The Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC).
The Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC).PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - An independent panel has been appointed to look into improper payments made by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), following an extensive report by audit firm KPMG last year that found $6.9 million worth of such payments.

The panel, which will comprise senior counsel Philip Jeyaretnam, senior counsel N. Sreenivasan, and KPMG managing partner Ong Pang Thye, will consider if the payments can be recovered and take other follow-up actions.

The Housing Board and AHTC said in separate statements on Friday (Feb 17) that they have agreed to the appointment of the panel.

HDB had asked AHTC to appoint a third party to recover the improper payments made, following the report on improper payments by KPMG last October.

KPMG had identified payments totalling at least $6.9 million as improper. These include overpayments and payments without proper certification of work being done, among other things.

In its statement on Friday, HDB said that the KPMG report had flagged regulatory breaches by AHTC, and large sums of improper payments made from town council funds.

"The Report also noted that the town council's failed control environment exposed public funds to the potential for misappropriation and civil or criminal breach of trust, and that the town council may potentially look to the town councillors for the recovery of losses arising from any breaches of their fiduciary duties," HDB said.

"The independent panel will consider what recovery actions should be taken, in respect of the findings in the report," it added.

The Workers' Party-run town council, said in its statement that "the panel will act independently, without remuneration, and without taking directions from AHTC, HDB or any other party".

It also said that while its key officials "have a different perspective from the audit team on key aspects of the report, AHTC believes that it is in the interests of AHTC and its residents to appoint an independent panel to review the findings and take such action as deemed appropriate to safeguard AHTC's interests".

The report on improper payments by KPMG is part of the ongoing audit of AHTC following lapses flagged by its own auditors as well as by the Auditor-General's Office in a special report in February 2015.

AHTC had appointed KPMG to look into its books following a court order.