SINGAPORE - The swift action taken after a complaint was received about the former general manager and secretary of Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC) shows the "essence of how the Government is run", said Minister of Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam on Friday (Jan 6).
"Regardless of who and regardless of the fact that this is the general manager of Ang Mo Kio Town Council, if there is an allegation, it will be investigated and no one will be spared," he said.
"No town council, no one, nothing will be swept under the carpet. That is why Singapore is successful, because we take probity in public office very, very seriously."
Mr Shanmugam was asked about the case on the sidelines of a press conference to announce the results of a review of criminal investigation processes.
Mr Victor Wong, who works for CPG Facilities Management, the managing agent of the town council, is under investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
He was asked to go on leave by his company after the town council received a complaint about him in September, town council chairman Ang Hin Kee told The Straits Times on Dec 29.
Mr Ang had said that the complaint "arose out of his dealings which relate to probable behaviour needing investigation done by CPIB".
Mr Shanmugam also contrasted the actions taken by AMKTC to the practices of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), which had come under fire last year (2016) for lapses in governance by auditor KPMG.
"(In) the only place where this Government is not in charge ... you have people appointing their cronies to run the Town Council. You have the Town Councillors being misled about the terms on which the cronies were appointed," he said.
He added: "But Ang Mo Kio Town Council, complaint made, CPIB is in. Aljunied Town Council, court application after court application, auditor general to investigate because they wouldn't give the information to their own auditors, their own auditors prepared a report saying we are being denied the information. You call that good behaviour with public funds?"
A 68-page report by KPMG on AHTC's accounts released in November last year (2016) revealed that payments totalling at least $23 million were approved by town council members with a conflict of interest.
Improper payments totalling about $1.5 million were also identified.
The Court of Appeal had ordered the town council managing the opposition wards of Aljunied GRC and Hougang single-seat ward to appoint a Big Four accounting firm to establish whether any past payments it made were improper, and ensure it complied with the laws.
The report is part of an ongoing audit of AHTC following significant lapses in governance flagged by its own auditors as well as by the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) in a special report in February last year, which was debated in Parliament.
Mr Shanmugam added: "Eventually, all of this will have to come full circle, once the auditors finish their work. There is more to come."
The Worker's Party, in a media statement on Friday afternoon, advised against jumping to conclusions on the case.
"Since CPIB is investigating the AMKTC case, we should let due process take its course and not jump to conclusions," said the statement.
WP said that people "jumped prematurely on the possibility of fraud and ficticious payments without waiting for the results of the audit" when an audit report on AHTC came out in July last year.
"Premature speculation, especially when done by influential people, may pervert the course of justice by shaping investigations. So let’s wait for the findings of the CPIB on the AMKTC case and let the law take its course," it added.