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MND asks AHTC why it didn’t require Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang to recuse themselves from financial matters

The Ministry of National Development said that AHTC should take interim measures to safeguard its procurement and payment processes to ensure good governance

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Singapore—The Ministry of National Development (MND) released the latest Town Council Management Report on Thursday, December 5, for the period spanning from April 2018 through March 2019.

According to the report, every single one of the 16 town councils submitted clean accounts for this year.

However, MND said that it has asked Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), which is run by the opposition Workers’ Party (WP) why it did not require WP Members of Parliament (MP) town council members Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang to recuse themselves from financial matters.

MND added that after they’ve received a response from AHTC, it would consider if additional regulatory moves should be imposed to make sure that public funds would be properly safeguarded, the Straits Times (ST) says.

“For good governance, AHTC should take interim measures to safeguard its procurement and payment processes immediately,” MND said.

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Early last month, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat introduced a motion in Parliament calling on Ms Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang to recuse themselves from financial matters related to the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHC). It affirmed “the vital importance of MPs maintaining high standards of integrity and accountability,” according to a report from TODAY.

DPM Heng’s motion came on the heels of the recently delivered verdict from High Court Judge Kannan Ramesh, wherein he called out Ms Lim and Mr Low for improper and dishonest conduct.

The Judge said that the WP MPs “acted dishonestly” and was “in breach of their fiduciary duties,” which Mr Heng’s motion reiterated, adding that Ms Lim and Mr Low’s behaviour “lacked integrity and candour”.

The motion also said, “Ms Lim and Mr Low were fully aware that their conduct was of questionable legality,” and asks the Members of Parliament to “affirm the vital importance of MPs maintaining high standards of integrity and accountability”.

The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) issued a statement on November 30 saying that the Town Council has resolved that Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament (MP) Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang need not recuse themselves from all financial matters.

This, according to the statement, was discussed at the Town Council’s quarterly meeting. AHTC’s resolution was passed via a secret vote, with the council voting 17 to 1 against the recusal, with both Ms Lim and Mr Low not present when the vote was taken.

ST reports MND saying on December 5, however, that the High Court’s findings “remain good and should be taken seriously by AHTC.”

“In particular, MND remains concerned as to whether the measures implemented under KPMG’s guidance are adequate to guard against a recurrence of past control failures if Ms Lim and Mr Low continue to be involved with AHTC’s financial affairs, especially since the adequacy of the measures is entirely dependent on their implementation by the individuals involved with AHTC’s financial affairs.”

AHTC issued a statement on the evening of December 5, saying it would respond to MND’s question before the given deadline, December 13. It added an expression of thanks to KPMG, as it has worked with AHTC in resolving control-related issues.

“We thank KPMG for the guidance to improve our control processes, as well as AHTC staff for the long hours put in to facilitate the completion of this rigorous audit exercise.”

Additionally, AHTC said it has started a self-funded internal audit engagement with Baker Tilly Consultancy (Singapore) for the betterment of the rigour of its management and finance processes.

“It is thus encouraging to receive news of our improved rating in corporate governance, as it represents the good work carried out in particular by our management team, the finance department, then vice-chairman Png Eng Huat and current vice-chairman Sylvia Lim.

AHTC notes the rest of the TCMR (Town Council Management Report) and will continue to work hard to improve the safety and living environment of the town.” -/TISG

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