Aljunied Hougang Town Council released the following statement today (8 Jul) regarding Court of Appeals further directions to the town council’s accountant’s work.
Since 01 March 2016, Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) had appointed KPMG, with the consent of the Housing and Development Board (HDB), to perform the role of accountants under the Court of Appeal judgment of 27 Nov 2015. KPMG’s remit included a thorough review of past payments made by Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) / AHTC from 27 May 2011 to 27 November 2015. The ambit of KPMG’s work covers transactions made in relation to Aljunied GRC, Hougang SMC as well as Punggol East SMC, since Punggol East SMC was under the management of AHPETC from 01 May 2013 to 30 November 2015.
AHTC later learned that Pasir Ris-Punggol TC (PRPTC) had appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to perform the role of accountants under the judgment. In AHTC’s view, this was a duplication of the work being done by KPMG. AHTC thus believed it was best for the Court of Appeal to clarify if it contemplated two big firms appointed to carry out similar work, funded by the public purse.
PRPTC was not present at today’s hearing. The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) informed the Court that despite the AGC serving the papers on PRPTC and inviting them to attend, PRPTC had replied that “there may not be a need for (PRPTC) to attend.”
The Chief Justice expressed “surprise” that PRPTC had chosen not to attend the hearing, given that it was in PRPTC’s interests to do so. The Chief Justice remarked that PRPTC’s absence “raises the question as to why we are here.”
The Court noted that the work being done by AHTC and KPMG included Punggol East SMC, and that there had been no suggestion that KPMG was not carrying out its work independently.
After hearing arguments, the Court noted both parties accepted that PRPTC had an interest in the outcome of the work done by KPMG. It directed that KPMG and PwC should communicate directly with each other and afford each other such access (to information and documents) as reasonably required to safeguard each party’s interests; and should there subsequently be a specific difficulty that arose, then the affected party could apply to Court for directions.
After the hearing, AHTC’s Chairman Pritam Singh emphasised: “AHTC has always proceeded on the basis that KPMG’s work would protect the interests of the residents of Punggol East. Nevertheless, AHTC will discuss the court’s latest directions with KPMG, and continue to ensure that the interests of its residents and the residents of Punggol East are safeguarded.”
“PRPTC appointed PWC to inquire into whether any past payments made by AHPETC had been improper and ought to be recovered. As PRPTC has consistently stated, this is in the interests of the residents of Punggol East. AHTC had previously refused PRPTC’s request to jointly appoint KPMG to do this. It is because of AHTC’s refusal to jointly appoint accountants that PRPTC has had to appoint PWC.”
“The Court of Appeal said today that KPMG and PwC should communicate directly with each other and allow each other access to documents. The Court added that if difficulties arise in the course of discussions and access, the affected party is to apply with the Court for directions.
With regard to how events have unfolded over the last few months on this matter, I have four basic points to make:
i. AHTC has been denying our accountants access to their accounts for more than 7 months and they have given various excuses for this.
ii. Now that the Court of Appeal has said they should give access to PwC, who were appointed as our accountants,
iii. My question is, what is it that they have been afraid of all this while?
iv. Our residents’ funds are involved and all we are doing is to make sure that our residents’ monies haven’t been misused.”