In an hour-long parliamentary speech today (5 Nov), Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat asked the Workers’ Party (WP) to apologise and remove Sylvia Lim from her post as Aljunied-Hougang Town Council’s (AHTC) vice-chairman due to the High Court’s judgment in the AHTC lawsuit.
On 11 Oct, High Court Judge Kannan Ramesh said that Mr Low and Ms Lim had breached their fiduciary duties to AHTC and that the Aljunied GRC MPs are liable for damages, as he released his long-awaited judgment on the year-long AHTC lawsuit.
Less than a month later, DPM Heng has introduced a parliamentary motion calling on AHTC to require Workers’ Party (WP) politicians Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim to “recuse themselves” from the town council’s financial matters.
Besides this, DPM Heng asked AHTC’s chairman Faisal Manap if he would, at the minimum, apologise to Aljunied-Hougang residents for letting them down and if he would remove Ms Lim from her post as vice-chairman of AHTC. He said:
“An apology would be the first step, a belated recognition that they had let residents down, and an intention to put things right.”
Addressing the other WP Members of Parliament (MPs) and Non-Constituency MPs, DPM Heng continued:
“Will they at long last be conducting their own investigation? Or will they continue to duck, dodge and deny?”
“If nothing is done from now till the appeal is concluded, we will be forced to conclude that the Workers’ Party, by its inaction, in fact endorses the dishonest conduct and the breach of the fiduciary duties that has already occurred, and is complicit in the wrongdoing.”
In his speech, DPM Heng listed the issues at the centre of the AHTC case. He said that WP had “appointed their friends to manage the Town Council, at a higher cost than the previous managing agent” causing AHTC to incur “deficits of up to S$2 million by the third year.”
Noting that “there had never been any intention to call a tender in the first place,” he said: “The two WP MPs had already decided on FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) within days of the 2011 General Election… They also admitted that they had rejected other parties who were interested in providing Managing Agent services.
“To guarantee FMSS’s appointment, Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang waived the tender, even though the law required it.”
DPM Heng added that Ms Lim and Mr Low concealed the “real facts” of the case and “manipulated the circumstances of this appointment, even to the extent of misleading their fellow Town Councillors.”
He said that Ms Lim and the AHTC chairman “hid details of the transactions with their friends” in 2014, “refused to give the documents and information to their own auditors.”
Referring to Mr Pritam’s statement that FMSS was “kept at an arm’s length” from AHTC, DPM Heng said that Ms Lim and the AHTC chairman “knowingly allowed Mr Pritam Singh to mislead Parliament.”
DPM Heng declared, “We now know this to be false. The Court found that How Weng Fan had been heavily involved since early May 2011,” as he referred to Ms How Weng Fan’s position as general manager of the AHTC while she was the director of FMSS.
He added that the WP also failed to produce “critical documents” to the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) and that the “WP MPs – and Ms Sylvia Lim in particular – made excuses” when Parliament debated the 2015 AGO report which “uncovered serious shortcomings”.
The ruling party politician added that AHTC ran deficits of up to S$2 million by the third year under FMSS’ management while FMSS made a profit of $3.2 million in their second year.