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Auditors' report on AHPETC's financial statements serious, says expert

An audit expert said that the findings of independent auditors engaged by the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) are serious.

SINGAPORE: An audit expert said that the findings of independent auditors engaged by the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) are serious.

The auditors had issued a “disclaimer of opinion” for the town council's latest financial statements for the financial year ended March 31, 2013.

Observers said the “disclaimer of opinion” issued points to deeper issues with the financial statements.

On Friday, chairman of the Workers' Party-run AHPETC, Sylvia Lim, said that the auditors had given a "qualified" but not "adverse" report.

But audit expert Dr Ernest Kan said that a "qualified" report is still serious.

"Qualified opinion in the mind of the auditor means the accounts do not give a true and fair view in certain aspects of the financial statement," said the president of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants.

He said a "qualified opinion" is rare.

When there are significant and pervasive issues, auditors can either issue an "adverse" report or "disclaimer of opinion.”

The difference is that an “adverse opinion” means the client disputes the auditor's report.

A "disclaimer of opinion”, which the town council received, means that there is insufficient information for the auditors to give any opinion.

Dr Kan said: "It could well be that the sufficiency of documentation is not adequate. It could also mean that for the information that they have, they may have misplaced or worse, documented a transaction but there is no supporting document."

The auditors’ report has also raised concerns among residents living in estates managed by the town council.

Residents said that estate cleanliness and maintenance have been “okay” since the Workers' Party took over the running of the town council, but they still want to see transparency and accountability in the way funds are being used.

A resident, Madeline Ng, said: "We are paying the town council fee every month, so we are also worried about how these funds are being managed, and whether this audit is based on the procedures of their whole accounting system.

"The estate maintenance is okay, and as long as they can justify what are the lapses and why they have lapses in this area, I think we can accept it."

Another resident, V Nair, said: "If there had already been problems in the earlier stages, why are they not being corrected over the past two years?

“So whoever's involved in making sure this has to be corrected, has to take the necessary steps to sort this out and bring everything back in the proper order.”

The town council manages estates in the Aljunied GRC, which comprises Bedok Reservoir-Punggol, Eunos, Kaki Bukit, Paya Lebar, Serangoon Divisions, Hougang and Punggol East SMCs.

There are more than 70,000 dwelling units, shops and hawker stalls under its purview.  

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