Aljunied-Hougang, Pasir Ris-Punggol town councils to get MND grants

Aljunied-Hougang, Pasir Ris-Punggol town councils to get MND grants
TODAY file photo
Published: 7:20 PM, April 14, 2016
Updated: 11:44 PM, April 18, 2016

SINGAPORE — Closing one chapter of a long-running tussle, the Ministry of National Development (MND) announced on Thursday (April 14) that it will disburse two years of grants that it withheld from the Workers’ Party-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC).

This comes after the WP confirmed that it fully accepts all conditions set by the MND in relation to the grants. Approximately S$12.9 million will be disbursed to AHTC and S$1.8 million to Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), the MND said.

The Service & Conservancy Charges operating grants for FY2014/15 and FY2015/16, worth about S$14 million, were withheld from the then-Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), after the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) uncovered lapses in compliance and governance in the organisation during a special audit.

PRPTC, run by the People’s Action Party (PAP), will receive S$1.8 million because Punggol East SMC, formerly held by the WP, was won by the PAP in the General Election last year. As such, management of the ward was subsumed by PRPTC.

Last November, after a prolonged legal battle, the court ordered AHTC to appoint an independent accountant to go through its books to fix the lapses identified in the AGO report.

AHTC has since appointed KPMG, whose task is to identify the town council’s outstanding non-compliances with the Town Councils Act, advise it on appropriate remedial steps, and establish whether any past payments made by AHPETC were improper and ought to be recovered.

KPMG has to put out monthly reports on its work, with the first due today.

In a statement on Thursday, the MND said the conditions imposed on AHTC, beyond the appointment of the accountant, include setting up segregated bank accounts to receive the grants, and getting the accountant to co-authorise and co-sign large payments out of these accounts.

Meanwhile, Punggol East Member of Parliament Charles Chong told TODAY the AHTC has returned only S$10 million of the S$22.5 million handed over to the AHPETC after the WP’s victory in the 2013 by-election.

The actual amount outstanding will have to be determined by AHTC’s accountants, said Mr Chong. “We hope the audit can be done as soon as possible, so we can get whatever is due to us and continue with estate redevelopment works,” he said.

Other teething problems since PRPTC began operations in Punggol East last December include difficulties in collecting back payments from households in arrears. Many bad debts had to be written off as residents claim they paid up, he said.

The WP said it will issue a press release on the matter “in the days to come”.