WP town council seeks apex court hearing

The Ministry of National Development has expressed concern that independent auditors have been unable to fully verify Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council's (AHPETC) accounts for the second year in a row. -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
The WP town council will seek the court's decision on the accountant who will manage its finances. ST FILE PHOTO

AHTC wants Court of Appeal to decide on appointment of accountant to manage its finances and inspect books

The town council run by the Workers' Party will go to court next Thursday in a bid to get a decision on which accountant will manage its finances and inspect its books.

Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), previously Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council, has applied to address the Court of Appeal "on the appointment of accountants and on costs", according to the High Court schedule.

The Straits Times understands the application was made after the Housing Board (HDB) and AHTC were unable to agree on which accountant to appoint

The town council was ordered by the Court of Appeal in November last year to appoint accountants to fix lapses uncovered by the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) in an audit.

The apex court specified that the choice of accountants is subject to approval by HDB.

However, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who delivered the 72-page judgment in November last year, also said that the HDB cannot unreasonably withhold its consent.

During the High Court hearing in May last year, before the case went to the appeal stage, the town council appointed Business Assurance as its financial consultant, to help iron out the issues that had been flagged by the AGO and the town council's previous accountants.

The town council also disagreed with the Ministry of National Development's (MND) suggestion that accounting firm PwC be appointed to help manage its finances.

Lawyer Peter Low, acting for the town council, said at the time that using PwC may lead to perceptions of bias, as the firm had earlier helped in the AGO's special audit.

The special audit was ordered by the Government in 2014 after the town council failed to submit clean accounts for two years in a row.

When contacted on Thursday, AHTC chairman Pritam Singh would only say the town council has applied to the Court of Appeal for further instructions.

Both HDB and MND said it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage as the issue is now before the courts.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story stated that the HDB oversees town councils. The Ministry of National Development, not the HDB, oversees town councils.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2016, with the headline 'WP town council seeks apex court hearing'. Print Edition | Subscribe