Parliamentary motion to call on AHTC to require Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang to recuse themselves from financial matters

Parliamentary motion to call on AHTC to require Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang to recuse themselves from financial matters

The Workers' Party's Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim arriving at the Supreme Court on Oct 16 (3)
The Workers' Party's Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim arriving at the Supreme Court on Oct 16, 2018. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will introduce a motion in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 5) calling for Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) to require Workers' Party (WP) leaders Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang to "recuse" themselves from financial matters.

This comes after a judge last month found the two Members of Parliament - along with WP chief Pritam Singh - liable in a landmark case investigating the misuse of tens of millions of dollars in town council funds.

READ: AHTC case: What you need to know about the High Court judgment

High Court judge Kannan Ramesh said that Mr Low and Ms Lim were not only derelict in appointing a managing agent for AHTC without calling for a tender, they had also painted a narrative that was "misleading and not honest" in order to do so.

The two had breached their fiduciary duties in appointing FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) as managing agent of AHTC without a tender, according to Justice Ramesh's written judgment.

According to Parliament's order paper for Tuesday, the motion calls on Parliament to affirm the "vital importance of Members of Parliament maintaining high standards of integrity and accountability".

It references the court judgment as saying that Ms Lim and Mr Low had "acted dishonestly and in breach of their fiduciary duties, and their conduct lacked integrity and candour".

Ms Lim remains vice-chairman of AHTC while Mr Low remains an elected member of AHTC, notes the motion.

As such, it calls on the town council to "discharge their responsibilities to their residents", by requiring Ms Lim and Mr Low recuse themselves "from all matters relating to, and oversight over, financial matters".

READ: Workers' Party MPs found liable in multimillion-dollar AHTC case; judgment raises 'serious doubt' about their integrity

Along with Mr Low, Ms Lim and Mr Singh, other defendants in the trial included AHTC town councillors Chua Zhi Hon and Kenneth Foo; FMSS itself and two of its owners.

The long-standing trial centred on allegations of breaches of fiduciary duty by the eight defendants, including the appointment of FMSS as managing agent without a tender.

This appointment led to AHTC making more than S$33 million in improper payments to FMSS, which was helmed by conflicted parties with roles in both the town council and FMSS - Ms How Weng Fan, who had worked with Mr Low for more than two decades, and her late husband Danny Loh.

The civil suit was brought against the defendants by AHTC and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council, on the back of audit reports which pointed to poor controls in the town council, flawed governance and millions of allegedly improper payments made by the town council to FMSS.

The defendants were found liable for most of the claims made against them, mainly for lapses in appointing FMSS as AHTC managing agent without a tender.

There was also a lack of safeguards for payments to FMSS and its service provider FM Solutions & Integrated Services, creating an “inherent risk of overpayment”, said the judge. The defendants were also faulted for contracts awarded to some third-party contractors.

Following last month's judgment, Ms Lim, Mr Low and Mr Singh could now be liable for part of the S$33.7 million in claims, which will be determined in a future second stage of the trial.

At the heart of the MPs' defence is their claim they acted in good faith and in the best interests of their residents, as they had to work swiftly against deadlines to find a managing agent and ensure continuity of services to residents.

Source: CNA/nc(rw)

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