ALJUNIED RESIDENT CHALLENGES MND TO SUE AHPETC

I refer to the article “Auditors unable to fully verify AHPETC accounts for second year; MND concerned” (Straits Times, Feb 14).

The Ministry of National Development has expressed concern that independent auditors have been unable to fully verify Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council’s (AHPETC) accounts for the second year in a row.

In a press statement on Thursday, the ministry noted that the town council had not complied with some provisions of the Town Councils Act and the Town Councils Financial Rules, as reported by the independent auditor.

As a resident of Aljunied, I would like to make some comments on the subject issue.

But first, I would like to make a qualification, just as auditors routinely make qualifications in their audit and annual reports.

I am commenting as a resident of Aljunied and as a Singaporean, and not in the context of having qualified as a Chartered Secretary (former Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators), former Accredited Investment Fiduciary Auditor and past president of the Society of Financial Service Professionals. It has also been a very long time since I was involved in annual reports or matters relating to corporate governance.

In the qualifications that auditors routinely make in annual reports – I understand that if there was a serious breach of statutory duties and responsibilities – the directors and officers responsible may be taken to task or even charged in court.

Since as I understand it – this is the second year in a row and more than a year has lapsed since Aljunied’s previous governance issues – why is it that Aljunied has not been taken to task or charged in court by the relevant authorities?

You mean “expressing concern” is all that you can do for a second year – and you are not going to anything about it?

If I may use an analogy – things are getting out of proportion. If Aljunied town council and even stallholders can be charged in court over a small matter like the Chinese New Year trade fair – why is it that no action whatsoever has been taken against Aljunied town council over governance irregularities involving millions of dollars of residents’ money?

With regard to AHPETC having only submitted its audited financial statement for the financial year ended March 31 2013 on Monday, six months later than the Aug 31 deadline – AHPETC chairman Sylvia Lim has acknowledged these issues, and said in the town council annual report that preparing the financial statements “continued to be a challenge” because of “handover issues that required more time to resolve”.

In fact AHPETC said in their media release in November that in “the area of Corporate Governance, our banding is listed as ‘pending’ mainly because our auditors are still in the midst of finalising our FY12 financial statements. We understand that the issues being addressed include complexities resulting from the handover legacy, classification and treatment issues, year-end adjustments, and others. We appointed the auditors in early May 2011 and we hope the audit will be completed soon”.

Aren’t “handover” issues arguably as much related to both the handing over and receiving parties?

If I may use the analogy of the honourable Minister who so rightly said (something along the lines) in his much acclaimed speech in Parliament on the issue of “hawker centres’ cleaning” that if what he said was untrue, he would waive his rights and asked Aljunied MPs to sue him.

Perhaps it is time for my town council’s MPs to say something along the same lines – like if we have breached our statutory or fiduciary duties and responsibilities – sue us – but don’t keep repeating through our 150th Press freedom ranking media like “a broken tape recorder”!

Now let me as a resident of Aljunied become “a broken tape recorder” and ask again the following questions:

… Why is it that under Section 34 of the Town Council Act, when a different party takes over a town council after an election – 100% of the accumulated operating surplus has to be transferred to the sinking fund. This in effect, deprives the residents of the surplus for operating expenditure.

… Why is it that some town council facilities were transferred to the People’s Association after the last general elections?

… Why is it that a $2 company (AIM) was set up – which as it turned out required my town council to source for a new software system. This may cost more money which may come from the residents at the end of the day.

… Why did you keep threatening us in the previous elections (prior to the last one) that if we did not vote for you – our HDB flats would not be upgraded?

And even now with upgrading in opposition wards – it still involves the Grassroots Advisor who typically is the losing candidate.

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