Png Eng Huat calls Charles Chong out after he tries to justify allegations that WP lost $22.5 million in town council funds

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Hougang SMC MP Png Eng Huat has challenged Punggol East SMC Charles Chong once again over an accusation the latter had made during the 2015 General Election.

On 8 September in 2015, 3 days before polling day in the last GE, Chong had sent a letter to residents of Punggol East SMC in which he alleged that it is an “indisputable fact” that the Workers’ Party had lost $22.5 million that was supposedly transferred to the Punggol East Town Council:

“The indisputable fact is that when Punggol East was transferred to the Workers’ Party, $22.5 million was transferred to the new town council. That sum is now unaccounted for…”

Chong won the Punggol East SMC that year, wresting it away from the WP’s Lee Li Lian who had won a by-election that was held in the ward after ruling party parliamentarian Michael Palmer resigned as elected MP in 2012 due to an extramarital affair.

In February, AHTC’s engagement with independent auditor KPMG ended with KPMG finding that Workers’ Party-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council has resolved all the audit points and control-related matters it had flagged for resolution.

That same evening, on 15 Feb, Png Eng Huat questioned Chong over the claim that his party had lost $22.5 million.

Releasing AHPETC’s statements of changes in funds for the financial years 2013-2015 and the statements for the financial years 2015-2017, Png pointed out that the Pasir-Ris Punggol Town Council also found that the audited Financial Statement for the Financial Year ended 31 March 2017 is unqualified. If there was missing money, the accounts would be qualified.

Chong tries to justify his claims

Charles Chong, who chairs the Select Committee that was convened last year to combat “fake news”, tried to justify his claims in a response three days later on 18 Feb when he told the Straits Times that there was no reliable way to find out what happened to the money since the opposition party did not submit clean records when Punggol East joined Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council from 2013 – 2015.

He added that in 2015, the WP town council’s financial statements were all qualified by their own auditors: “Consequently, there were no reliable figures to adequately account for the moneys that were transferred to them by Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council after the by-election in 2013.”

For some reason, Chong also appeared to deflect attention to the AHTC court case when asked to justify his claims: “Key office holders of AHTC will still have to account for more than $33 million spent by AHPETC and to recover any amounts overpaid when the suit brought by the independent panel on behalf of AHTC comes up in court later this year.”

Png Eng Huat hits back

Png Eng Huat has taken Charles Chong to task once again with a new Facebook post questioning Chong’s justifications.

Categorising Chong’s mention of the $33 million payment review as a “distraction,” Png added that Chong’s justifications do not really hold water since his original allegation about the lost funds were made in September 2015 and the KPMG forensic audit only began in 2016, with the payment revire only being released in October 2016:

“Mr Charles Chong was reported on 18 February 2018 to have implied that his allegation on the unaccounted $22.5 million from Punggol East (PE), made in 2015, was justified because of all the qualified financial statements (FS) of Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC). Mr Chong was also reported to have brought up the $33 million payment review report by KPMG in the same response, which is clearly a distraction.
“There was no KPMG audit then when Mr Chong made the allegation about the unaccounted millions from PE in September 2015. The KPMG forensic audit did not exist until 2016 and the payment review report was only released in October that year. So it is ludicrous for anyone to cite that as a basis or reference to make such an allegation in 2015. Furthermore, the KPMG report is on disputed payments, not about unaccounted money.”

The Hougang MP reiterated that there are “3 indisputable facts” when it comes to the alleged unaccounted $22.5 million from Punggol East:

“First, all the qualified FS for AHTC prior to the PE by-election in 2013 did not concern PE as it was not even under the management of WP.
“Second, all the qualified FS for AHTC from 2013 to 2015 did not flag that $22.5 million from PE was missing. Furthermore, the independent auditor for the handover of PE said the FS were properly drawn up and it gave a true and fair view of the financial position of the town as at 30 November 2015 (see attached). In short, the handover FS for PE is unqualified.
“Third, the auditor for Pasir Ris Punggol East Town Council (PRPTC) accepted the handover FS for PE and did not follow up with AHTC on the alleged unaccounted $22.5 million raised by Mr Chong in 2015. A big sum of money was alleged unaccounted for in PE and no one from PRPTC is interested to find out the status?”
“So linking the alleged missing $22.5m from PE to predated and unrelated audit issues from 2011, and highlighting disputed findings from a yet to be ordered forensic audit in explaining the allegation made in the letter to PE residents on 8 September 2015, is really stretching the justification way too thin.”

Png further revealed that he has been investigating Chong’s allegation for 30 months. He further clarified that AHTC did hand over $26.3 million back to Pasir Rise-Punggol Town Council, in cash:

“The accounts and reports are all released now. I have waited 30 months just to get to the bottom of the alleged missing $22.5 million from PE. And yes, AHTC did hand over $26.3 million back to PRPTC, in CASH too.”

Where is the unaccounted $22.5 million town council funds? Hougang MP challenges Charles Chong