RESPONSE TO MINISTER LAWRENCE WONG’S OPINION PIECE
AHPETC finds Minister Lawrence Wong’s accusations in The Straits Times of 5 June 2015 surprising and puzzling. We would like to make the following clarifications to correct the misconceptions.
- What the High Court recently had to decide were, mainly, legal questions i.e. whether the court had power to entertain the Ministry of National Development’s request for the court to appoint and authorise independent accountants (1) to co-sign cheques for the disbursement of the FY 14/15 and FY 15/16 $14m Town Council grants which the MND had withheld; and (2) to look into AHPETC’s past transactions. The High Court accepted the arguments of AHPETC’s lawyers that there were no legal bases whatsoever for the MND’s request, and accordingly, threw out the government’s entire case.
- There was no trial and the High Court did not itself embark on a dedicated fact-finding exercise. However, in the course of delivering the judgment, the High Court expressed views on AHPETC’s lapses but the views were based, principally, on the findings of the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) Report.
- A special two-day sitting of Parliament was convened to debate the AGO Report. All Workers’ Party Members of Parliament (MPs) who are responsible for overseeing the management of the Town Council, including Secretary-General Mr Low Thia Khiang, participated in the debate to explain and clarify matters raised.
- Ms Sylvia Lim denies that she lied to Parliament. Parliament has avenues such as the Committee of Privileges to ensure that MPs’ conduct meets the standards expected.
- Just because AHPETC did not physically transfer monies into Sinking Funds from its Operating Funds does not mean that monies are missing. Up to Financial Year 13/14, AHPETC has done the necessary transfers.
- Currently, MND is withholding $14 million in grants to AHPETC. If MND continues to withhold the grants from AHPETC that every Town Council should receive, AHPETC will not be able to fulfill its obligations to make the necessary Sinking Fund transfers.
- AHPETC does not understand the basis for Minister Lawrence Wong to accuse AHPETC or the Workers’ Party of “dishonesty” or “irresponsible” behaviour.
- All Town Councils are required to be audited, and the audit reports are presented to Parliament for public scrutiny.
- Whether AHPETC’s contractors are delivering services or not, and the standard of their work, is a matter that residents can assess for themselves.
- When Town Councils engage contractors, they are required to comply with rules on the calling of public tenders. If any Town Council staff has committed any illegal act or corrupt practice, he / she will have to face the full consequences of the law.
Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council spokesman
05 June 2015