SINGAPORE: Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) has appointed auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to ensure that the accounts of its Punggol East division are in order, it announced on Monday (May 30).
Punggol East was transferred to PRPTC from the former Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) after the People's Action Party won back the seat from the Workers' Party in the last general election. The handover of the ward - including its assets and liabilities, as well as obligations that arose from a legal judgement made against AHPETC - took place last December.
In that judgement, AHPETC was ordered to appoint an accountant from one of the "Big Four" firms – subject to approval from the Housing and Development Board (HDB) – to help put right any accounting and governance lapses.
In a statement on Monday, PRPTC said that it "has a duty to its residents to ensure that it has received all of the property and rights which should in law be transferred to it from AHPETC".
"This duty is all the more acute because of the highly troubling findings and observations in the Auditor General's report and the Court of Appeal’s judgement, both of which flagged serious issues and lapses on the part of AHPETC," PRPTC said.
It added that it is "duty bound to look into these serious issues" for the benefit of the affected residents. "PRPTC’s main concern is to protect the residents and to ensure that they receive the full benefit of all assets to which they and PRPTC are entitled to."
PWC STILL REQUIRES DOCUMENTS FROM AHTC: PRPTC
AHPETC has since been reconstituted as Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) following the September 2015 General Election. In Monday's statement, PRPTC also revealed that it proposed to AHTC that they jointly appoint an independent accountant from one of the Big Four firms in Dec 2015, and that AHTC rejected its proposal in March 2016.
The Workers' Party-run AHTC appointed KPMG as its accountant in March.
PRPTC added that its own auditor, PwC, began work in April. The town council said that PwC "requires and has requested additional documents from AHTC for it to do its work properly. PRPTC has still not received the documents from AHTC, and PRPTC will be seeking direction from HDB on the way forward."
HDB said in a statement on Monday that it "expects AHTC and PRPTC to do all that is necessary to carry out the orders of the Court of Appeal. This includes fully cooperating and supporting the work of the appointed accountants, KPMG and PwC, to establish whether any past payments made by AHPETC were improper and ought therefore to be recovered."
PRPTC STATEMENT ON DOCUMENTS NEEDED "MISLEADING": AHTC
In a statement released on Wednesday, AHTC chairman Pritam Singh said PRPTC's characterisation of the number of documents it required from AHTC in its statement was "misleading". It said the town council "requested AHTC to hand over all documents and information that AHTC had made available for the Court of Appeal-mandated review, to PwC".
"This would effectively duplicate the work of KPMG and, separately, require AHTC to commit resources devoted to the KPMG review to attend to PRPTC’s requests," he said.
Mr Pritam added that he had last responded to PRPTC's request on May 25, stating that AHTC town councillors had decided that the opposition-run town council "ought to focus its fullest attention on the KPMG review".
With a second tranche of S$10 million worth of sinking funds belonging to Punggol East SMC authorised earlier this week, AHTC has transferred a total of S$20 million of sinking funds attributable to the SMC, Mr Pritam said.
"A final transfer of any remaining sinking funds attributable to Punggol East SMC will be made to PRPTC once the audited accounts for Punggol East SMC are ready," he added.