AHPETC 'to address arrears issue after audit'

AHPETC 'to address arrears issue after audit'
Trial: between the National Environment Agency and the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

The town council run by the Workers' Party (WP) is studying data on its overdue service and conservancy charges (S&CC), and will address the issue after audits on its financial statements are completed and made public, its chairman, Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim, said last night.

She declined to give detailed responses to questions on the financial health of the Aljunied- Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), saying the party would do so after the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) has completed the audit on its financial statements.

The council received a red banding - the worst - for the management of S&CC arrears, and for corporate governance in the latest Town Council Management Report issued by the Ministry of National Development (MND). It was the only one of 16 town councils to get the banding.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said last Friday that the council's 29 per cent arrears rate was shocking. It suggested 16,000 out of 55,000 households were not paying their S&CC. The council's finances could decline if the trend continued, affecting residents. He noted that the council had not filed statements for the 2013 financial year and its monthly S&CC arrears reports since May last year, despite reminders.

While Ms Lim declined to comment on the council's financial position, she said it had been transparent and open to scrutiny by the AGO.

As for not submitting statements, she said its finance team was strapped preparing documents for the AGO. Thus, its own audit was delayed. She said MND had been informed of it.

AGO is auditing AHPETC's financial statements for financial year 2012/2013 after an independent auditor expressed concern about its accounts.

Mr Lee also said that Hougang Town Council, when run by WP chief Low Thia Khiang, chalked up high S&CC arrears and avoided cash flow problems only after merging with Aljunied, following the 2011 General Election. Last night, Ms Lim said the councils merged to take advantage of economies of scale.

This article was first published on Nov 11, 2014.
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