AHTC case: HDB urges town council to take steps to recover misused funds

A High Court judgment had earlier found three Workers' Party MPs liable for damages suffered by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council.
A High Court judgment had earlier found three Workers' Party MPs liable for damages suffered by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) should take steps to recover funds that have been misused, said the Housing Board in a statement on Friday night (Oct 11).

It was responding to a High Court judgment earlier in the day, which found three Workers' Party MPs - Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Low Thia Khiang, and Ms Sylvia Lim - liable for damages suffered by the town council.

"As public monies are involved, AHTC should take the appropriate steps to recover the monies misused," HDB said.

It added it will study the matter further.

In a separate statement on Friday, Punggol East MP Charles Chong said the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) "will take the necessary steps to recover the monies due to the residents of Punggol East in the next round of hearings".

The claims by both town councils centred on $33.7 million that AHTC paid to its former managing agent FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) between 2011 and 2015.

The civil suit was initiated in 2017 under the direction of an independent panel set up by the town council to recover improper payments.

PRPTC, which is chaired by MP Zainal Sapari, had also sued to recover its share of losses incurred when Punggol East constituency was managed by the WP-led town council from 2013 to 2015. The WP had won the seat in a 2013 by-election but lost it in the 2015 General Election.

In his ruling, Justice Kannan Ramesh had found Mr Singh, the current WP chief, as well as his predecessor Mr Low, and WP chairman Ms Lim, to be liable for damages suffered by AHTC, which is said to have made millions in improper payments under their watch.

He said Ms Lim and Mr Low had breached their fiduciary duty, while Mr Singh had breached his duty of skill and care in the hiring of FMSS as managing agent.

 
 
 
 

This resulted in the town council paying at least $33.7 million to FMSS from July 2011 to July 2015.

During that period, Ms Lim was chairman of the town council, while Mr Low was secretary-general of the WP. Mr Singh, meanwhile, was a member of the town council's tenders and contracts committee.

In his statement, Mr Chong said: "The Court said that Mr Low and Ms Lim have acted egregiously, misled Town Councillors, misled the public, and allowed the Town Council's money to be improperly spent profiting related parties.

"The Court said that they lacked credibility, and were not honest. Public funds have been lost."

Similarly, the HDB said in its statement that the court found some of the defendants had acted "dishonestly and egregiously in their capacity as town councillors".

"It found that the tender process in the town council had been subverted, related parties made money and public funds misused," it said, adding that other town councillors were also held to be in breach of their duties.

Friday's verdict brings to a close the first tranche of the trial to determine liability.