The following article had been written by Dennis Theseira
On 27th May 2015, the High Court rejected MND’s application to have independent accountants examine AHPETC’s accounts, as there was “no legal basis” for doing so. However, Justice Quentin Loh put on record that “there are grave and serious questons that have been raised regarding the state of AHPETC’s accounts”, and that the AHPETC’s actions were “possibly criminal” and liable to legal action by residents and the HDB. The Judge added that if AHPETC were a managing corporation, it and its officers would be liable to legal action.
More importantly, the Worker’s Party controlled AHPETC has not been entirely honest when questioned over its financial position and practices in parliament and in court. In withholding information to parliamentary scrutinay, the WP is acting in contempt of parliament. According to chain of events (based on MND and AHPETC accounts) below, it is clear that AHPETC has not been forthcoming on its financial position. While it repeatedly told the courts and media that it had not cash-flow problems, it later told the Court in April that it could not operate without the S&CC grants. Furthermore, it rejected MND’s offer to disburse half the grants.
Speaking on behalf of AHPETC, Ms Sylvia Lim also presented false information to Parliament. She claimed in February that AHPETC has transferred the amounts due to its sinking funds for FY2013 and has been making transfers for FY2014. However, she revealed in Court, in April, that AHPETC had not made 2 of the 4 mandatory quarterly transfers for FY 2014, while the other 2 transfers were late.
The intentions of the AHPETC are clearly to evade measures aimed to increase the transparency of its finances by misrepresenting its financial solvency to parliament and not making the mandatory transfers after having told parliament that they are doing so.
This is wilful misrepresentation and not simply an oversight.
This misleads the public and AHPETC residents into believing that AHPETC has addressed issues raised by the MND audit, when it has not done so. Such deliberate attempts to mislead and obfuscate is contempt of Parliament.
More worryingly, the AHPETC appears to be deliberately politicizing the issue, likely as a vote winning act. While AHPETC ultimately revealed that it needed the S&CC grant to operate, it also rejected MND’s offer to disburse half the funds. If it were truly concerned about its solvency and the provision of services to its residents, the AHPETC would logically have accepted the half-grant. However, it rejected the MND’s offer and even claimed that MND’s decision is based on political interest. AHPETC also rejected MND’s appointment of PwC as independent auditors due to prior disputes between the town council and the auditing firm.
Chain of Events
Sylvia Lim had appealed twice to MND to disburse S&CC operating Grant in 2014, but rejected MND’s offer to disburse half the grant.
After MND applied to the court to appoint independent accountants to audit AHPETC, the AHPETC told the courts that it does not need the grants.
On 5 Nov 2014, Low Thia Kiang told the media that AHPETC had no cash-flow problems.
On Feb 12, 2015, Ms Sylvia Lim told Parliament: “The Town Council accepts that it should have transferred the full amounts due to the sinking funds each quarter and should have paid sinking fund expenses directly from the sinking fund accounts. We have taken steps and made good the transfers… We have also done the transfers for FY2013 and have been making transfers for FY2014.
On Mar 27, 2015, during the Pre-Trial Conference, Ms Sylvia Lim repeatedly assured the Judge that AHPETC did not urgently need fresh grants from MND, as AHPETC had sufficient funds for at least the next 3 months. Ms Lim’s lawyer also told the Judge, after checking with Ms Sylvia Lim: “I have spoken to my client … they have not pursued the MND to release … the grants … because they don’t need the funds. They are okay … they can manage.”
Yet, on May 4 and 5, it was revealed in Ms Sylvia Lim’s sworn affidavit, signed Apr 17, and in front of the Judge, that AHPETC had not made two out of the four mandatory quarterly transfers to the Sinking Fund for FY14/15, and even the two transfers it did make (for 1Q/2QFY14) were late. AHPETC also admitted that the TC would need the S&CC grants in order to operate in accordance with the law, and to make its Sinking Fund contributions. This was contrary to what Ms Sylvia Lim had told Parliament during the February 2015 Parliamentary debate on the AGO report, and what she and AHPETC’s lawyer told the Judge on Mar 27.
AHPETC also did not contest MND’s statement in court, in April, that the Town Council was already “technically insolvent”
According to MND, AHPETC also did not make mandatory transfers to the Sinking Fund in financial years 2011/12 and 2012/13, while receiving grants from MND.”
Speaking after the hearing on 6 May 2015, Ms Lim said she swore an affidavit on Saturday in which she said that her words in Parliament were “true and correct”. She told reporters: “It is still my position today that what I said was factual.”
Questions over the AHPETC’s financial malpractices, which were described by Justice Loh as the “height of financial irresponsibility”, remain unanswered. On the contrary, the WP has consistently refused to give information on contracts awarded to FMSS, which is run by AHPETC officers, to their own auditors. This constitutes lying in parilament. It has also not been forthcoming in answering questions raised in court.
For a political party that may be thrust in to run the country as a Government, these events are worrying.