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

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Photo: PAP. ST

Hougang SMC MP Png Eng Huat has challenged Punggol East SMC Charles Chong over an accusation the latter had made during the 2015 General Election, on Facebook this Thursday.

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.

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

The party’s assistant secretary general, Pritam Singh, added that KPMG confirmed that it is “reasonably satisfied” that AHTC is compliant with section 35(c) of the Town Council Act and also revealed that AHTC’s new Town Council Financial System is now fully operational.

That same evening, 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:

“With the release of the final KPMG report on AHTC today, I can finally finish writing this post which has bugged me for almost 30 months.
“At the tail end of GE2015 campaign, Mr Charles Chong sent a letter dated 8 September 2015 to all Punggol East (PE) residents stating that $22.5 million transferred to AHPETC by Pasir-Ris Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) was now unaccounted for. By the time we got wind of this letter, it was Cooling-Off Day.
“After the general election, we met Mr Chong to discuss the handover matters on 18 September 2015. I asked him about the alleged missing $22.5 million. I told him we would want to return every single cent to PE residents if he could point out what this money was all about. In every audited financial statement since 2013, there was $22.8 million to $26.3 million attributed to PE sitting in our accounts (see photos). He brushed off my question and said he had already explained. I did not recall there was an explanation given anyway.
“So I waited until PRPTC filed its annual report in 2016 and noted there was $24.7 million attributed to PE sitting in its book as well. In its 2017 financial report, PRPTC said AHTC had sent over the audited handover Financial Statement of PE, and “in the good hands of Pasir-Ris Punggol Town Council, the audited Financial Statement for the Financial Year ended 31 March 2017 is now unqualified”. That means there was no such missing money else the accounts would be qualified!
“I waited further for KPMG to publish its final report to complete the final piece of the puzzle. The final report speaks for itself.
“We will never solve the mystery of unaccounted $22.5 million now as none of the audited statements from the two town councils and special reports by KPMG and PwC (hired by PRPTC to also look into the accounts of PE after GE2015) could shed any light on the allegation.
“The end of the KPMG audit also marks the end of my attempt to find some answers into this matter.”

Netizens responding to Png’s post opined that it is ironic that Chong now chairs the Select Committee that was convened last year to combat “fake news”:

AHTC clears all audit points, ends engagement with independent auditor KPMG