'Accountants will derail our work'

'Accountants will derail our work'
WP Chairman Ms Slyvia Lim with her lawyer, Mr Peter Low

A High Court application by the Government to have independent accountants oversee government grants given to the Workers' Party-run town council will, if granted, "derail our work towards meeting deadlines" to file its accounts, party chairman Sylvia Lim said yesterday.

The Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) has till June 30 to submit its 2013 accounts, which are late. It was also asked to submit its 2014 accounts by Aug 31.

In her first comments since the court proceedings were made public on Friday last week, Ms Lim, an MP for Aljunied GRC, said she was "very surprised" the case was brought against the town council.

Speaking after a closed-door administrative hearing at the court, she said of the expected delay: "They're asking for the independent accountants to make inquiries, so we would have to handle a few different sets of auditors at the same time... It will derail our work and we may not be able to file our accounts until the next elections."

The next general election must be held by January 2017.

The town council is represented by lawyers Peter Low and Terence Tan of Peter Low LLC.

Since a two-day parliamentary session last month debated the findings of a report by the Auditor-General's Office into its finances, AHPETC has been taking "additional steps", Ms Lim said.

These included appointing its own consultants to help the town council address the weaknesses and disclaimers outlined in the report, said Ms Lim, who was at yesterday's hearing with fellow Aljunied GRC MP Faisal Manap.

She declined to comment on the specifics of the court application but said: "We'll be making our case known in court. We don't think those orders are warranted."

If the court gives the nod, the National Development Ministry will release about $14 million in grants to AHPETC - money disbursed to all town councils but which it has withheld for a year now owing to serious lapses in governance and compliance.

MND, which will foot the bill for the accountants, is asking for "adequate safeguards", such as having segregated accounts and for payments above $20,000 from this account to be co-signed by the accountants.

It also asked the court to empower the accountants to look at past payments and take appropriate action to recover losses suffered by AHPETC and its residents.

The town council has to file an affidavit by April 17, to which MND will reply by April 24, said Mr Tan. A closed-door hearing for MND's application has been fixed for the week starting April 27, he added.

waltsim@sph.com.sg

 


This article was first published on March 28, 2015.
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