SINGAPORE: Months after the Court of Appeal cleared Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh of wrongdoing for negligence in the town council payments process in the AHTC case, the Court said on Wednesday (Nov 29) that he, along with party chair Sylvia Lim, former secretary-general Low Thia Khiang, and others have succeeded substantially in their appeals.
The Town Councils that sued the WP leaders and others have now been ordered to pay around S$388,800 in costs and disbursements over the appeals in the case. The Court released a judgment explaining why Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and Sengkang Town Council (SKTC) are now required to pay costs.
The AHTC case began in 2013 after FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) was appointed as managing agent because FMSS had been founded by WP supporter Ms How Weng Fan; this was questioned due to a possible conflict of interest.
In 2016, “improper payments” of over S$33.7 million were found by accounting firm KPMG to have been paid to the managing agents. The WP leaders were later involved in a lawsuit from an independent panel, who had acted on behalf of AHTC to claim back that amount.
In 2019, the High Court found the MPs, town councillors, and senior employees of the AHTC and FMSS liable for some of the claims made against them by the AHTC and the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), which had also filed a suit against Messrs Low and Singh and Ms Lim over losses that had reportedly incurred during the time that WP ran Punggol East constituency.
AHTC and SKTC filed lawsuits against eight defendants: Messrs Low and Singh, Ms Lim, FMSS, and four others who used to be town councillors or employees.
CNA reported that AHTC must pay S$176,241.11, and SKTC has to pay a total of S$212,543.52 in costs and disbursements to the town councillors, employees, and FMSS for the appeals.
The five-judge panel that released the judgment comprises Justice Sundaresh Menon, Justice Judith Prakash, Justice Tay Yong Kwang, Judge of the Appellate Division Woo Bih Li, and Senior Judge Andrew Phang. They noted that in litigation, the successful party is eligible to recover costs they spent from the unsuccessful party.
In July, the Court found Ms Lim and Mr Low liable for negligence in the town council payments process but cleared Mr Singh. However, the costs for the long-running trial will be decided after damages have been assessed. In July, the Court also confirmed the liability of the WP leaders and town councillors to SKTC due to negligence that allowed control failures to persist in the system.
Additionally, Ms Lim is accountable to Sengkang Town Council for negligence in awarding a new contract to Red-Power Electrical Engineering. It ruled that she failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove that her decision not to renew existing contracts at significantly cheaper rates was made in good faith.