AHTC lawsuit

AHTC lawsuit: WP MPs reject allegations they acted in breach of fiduciary duties

"My conscience is clear": WP chief Low Thia Khiang.

They say they acted in the best interests of residents and that their conscience is clear

The three Workers' Party MPs at the centre of the lawsuit brought by Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) yesterday rejected the allegations that they acted in breach of their fiduciary duties.

"My conscience is clear. We acted in good faith and in the best interests of our residents, and there were no dishonest intentions," party chief Low Thia Khiang told reporters before his Meet-the-People Session.

He added: "The residents can see for themselves. I have been in politics for more than 20 years, and I think people know me."

Mr Low, AHTC vice-chairman Sylvia Lim and chairman Pritam Singh said they would contest the lawsuit, which was brought against them by an independent panel on behalf of the town council.

It had been served on them the night before, following the work of the panel which had been tasked with looking into improper payments made by AHTC.

The lawsuit alleged, among other things, that Mr Low and Ms Lim acted in breach of their fiduciary duties and duties of care and skill owed to AHTC.

It also accused them of setting up a faulty system which allowed the appointment of FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), the town council's former managing agent firm, despite conflicts of interest.

Ms Lim said they welcomed the opportunity to explain to the court and the public the reasons behind their decisions.

She said the town councillors "still stand firm today that what we did was in the best interests of the council, based on the information we had at the time".

Asked about the $33 million in payments which the independent panel wants them to account for, Ms Lim said this was the total value of payments made.

"We reject the allegations that these payments were unlawful and wrong, and it will be up to the court to determine what they think is a fair and correct decision," she said.

If the court finds the MPs liable to pay any amount, they will have to see if they are able to do so, said Ms Lim, who is AHTC's vice-chairman.

"If we don't, we may have to consider other options, perhaps raising funds. If we are not able to... the law will take its course," she added.

The lawsuit also alleged that the town councillors awarded contracts to an architectural firm that put in a higher bid without proper justification, in breach of duties owed to AHTC.

In a statement sent earlier yesterday, the three MPs rejected all the allegations, saying: "We have not benefited a single cent.

"In the course of these proceedings, we will be furnishing more information so that all concerned will be clearer on the issues and why we made the decisions and acted as we did," they said in the statement.

Law firm Tan Rajah & Cheah has been engaged to defend the claim for the three MPs, as well as two other defendants, Mr Chua Zhi Hon and Mr Kenneth Foo, who are appointed members of the town council.

Ms Lim said they will file further court documents for the case in the next few weeks, including a substantive defence three weeks from now.

The last two defendants are Ms How Weng Fan, who is the owner of FMSS, and FMSS itself.

The MPs did not want to get into further details like their last contact with Ms How, or the merits of their case, saying it is before the court.

The independent panel has asked Mr Low and Ms Lim, Ms How and FMSS to account for more than $33 million, for payments made to FMSS from July 2011 to July 2015.

It contends that the payments are void and is claiming equitable compensation for any losses suffered.

Last night, Mr Low rejected suggestions that the suit could damage the party's reputation or his internal standing within the party.

"I don't think Singaporeans have lost faith in us, we acted in good faith, I believe Singaporeans will trust us," he said.

Adding that he does not really care about his own popularity, he said it is important to keep one's conscience clear in politics.

Mr Low said: "If we lose our seats, the younger generation of the WP will be prepared to come forward to serve Singaporeans, so I am not worried."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2017, with the headline 'WP MPs reject allegations they acted in breach of fiduciary duties'. Print Edition | Subscribe