The Ministry of National Development (MND) last night issued the following response to the statement released by the Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC):
"All town councils (TCs) are entitled to operating grants, but they must be able to safeguard these grants, which are public funds, and channel them to the purpose for which they are given.
MND has given AHPETC much latitude, as far as grants were concerned. In the first year when their own auditors qualified their accounts and had four disclaimers, MND still gave AHPETC the grant, because the TC assured MND that they would rectify their shortcomings. However, the following year's audit showed that not only did AHPETC not rectify the situation, it had gotten worse; the TC's accounts continued to be qualified and the number of disclaimers increased to 13.
The Auditor-General's Office (AGO) had to be called in to do a special audit of the TC's accounts. Under the circumstances, it would be unconscionable for MND to continue to give AHPETC the grants, which are public moneys, without proper safeguards.
Notwithstanding this, MND, in response to Ms Sylvia Lim's appeal, offered to disburse half of the grant, even while the AGO audit was ongoing, on the condition that the TC complies with the law. However, Ms Lim never responded to this offer.
Her latest statement still doesn't explain clearly why AHPETC did not disclose to the court as late as March 27 that it needed these grants. Indeed, it had insisted it did not.
In the latest press release, Ms Sylvia Lim gives the impression that AHPETC is not making transfers to the sinking fund and contravening the law, because MND has withheld the grants. The fact is AHPETC also did not make mandatory transfers to the sinking fund in FY11/12 and FY12/13, while receiving grants from MND.
This latest press release by AHPETC is another example of why MND had to go to court to seek the appointment of independent accountants. This is the only way to depoliticise the issue: AHPETC deals directly with the courts, and not engage in endless argy-bargy with MND."
This article was first published on May 15, 2015.
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