AHTC and PRPTC clash over documents related to Punggol East

The Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council is seeking to get an order for the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council to hand over financial documents related to Punggol East constituency.
The Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council is seeking to get an order for the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council to hand over financial documents related to Punggol East constituency.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - 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 number of documents that have exchanged hands.

This led PRPTC to say on Sunday (Oct 9) 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 all the documents needed to review Punggol East's accounts.

The longstanding dispute had appeared to be on the way to resolution in August when both sides 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 relate to Punggol East as well as other constituencies under the town council.

But PRPTC said in a statement that despite numerous requests over the past six weeks, AHTC has not provided the required documents.

This was disputed by AHTC 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 accountants KPMG have met PRPTC's accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to answer questions about the documents.

Regarding the second set of documents that contain information about other parts of AHTC, PRPTC said that AHTC has not handed over any of the documents, but has not raised any specific concerns about confidentiality.

But 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 light of the highly troubling findings and observations in the Auditor General's report and the Court of Appeal's judgement, both of which identified serious issues and lapses on the part of AHPETC," PRPTC said, referring to AHTC by its former name when Punggol East was a part of it.

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 on Sunday that it has left Punggol East "in better financial health".

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.

"AHTC is handing over to PRPTC $26.8 million in Sinking Funds and another $755,000 in accumulated surplus, totalling $27.5 million," AHTC added.

This is based on the audited accounts of Punggol East for the period of April 1, 2015, to Nov 30, 2015, which AHTC said it submitted to PRPTC on Sept 28.