On Wednesday (27 May), the High Court rejected MND’s application to appoint independent accountants for AHPETC.
Justice Quentin Loh decided that MND had failed to establish a legal basis for its application.
Justice Loh disagreed with MND’s argument that the ministry is a “person” for whose benefit the Town Councils Act (TCA) was imposed on AHPETC, so as to protect town council monies in the interests of residents and the MND.
“While it is true that a town council holds its monies for the purposes of the TCA and that the MND has some interest in a loose sense in ensuring that a town council complies with its statutory duties, I am of the view that this does not give rise to a right on the part of the MND to come to court to enforce a town council’s duty (unconditionally),” Justice Loh said in his judgement.
Most importantly, Justice Loh is of the view that once the Government grants are disbursed, “how it is allocated and spent on the various projects or purposes within the TCA is no longer under the control of the Government but the town council”.
“When the Town Councils are set up, the whole idea is to rest the responsibility of the management of the funds as well as the estate with the Town Council,” he added.
Today (29 May), MND filed an appeal against the High Court’s decision. MND still wants independent accountants to be appointed to AHPETC.
With the appointment, town council payments from grants, exceeding certain thresholds will have to be co-signed by the independent accountants.
MND said, “The Government cannot disburse public funds to AHPETC in the current circumstances, given the very serious findings by the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) and the High Court.”
“The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has advised the Ministry of National Development (MND) that an appeal should be filed, for the appointment of Independent Accountants (IAs). The appointment of IAs will allow the Government to immediately disburse grants to AHPETC, in the interest of residents, while ensuring that these public funds are adequately safeguarded,” it added.
“The IAs will also be able to examine past payments made by AHPETC. They will be able to take steps to recover monies lost from financial mismanagement and questionable payments.”