Govt orders AHTC to restrict powers of WP MPs Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim on some financial matters
SINGAPORE — The Government has ordered the Workers’ Party-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) to strip two of its town councillors, Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang, of authority from handling some financial matters, so as to prevent them from causing further irregularities.
In a statement on Friday (Jan 3), the Ministry of National Development (MND) said it has issued an order under the Town Councils Act, requiring AHTC to remove the duo’s ability to act on behalf of the town council to unilaterally approve or incur expenditure, or to accept or waive any contracts for stores, services or works, and serve as cheque signatories for AHTC.
The order comes after the High Court ruled in October that WP leaders were liable for damages suffered by the AHTC and the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council. In particular, the judge found that Ms Lim and Mr Low had breached their fiduciary duties to the AHTC and had acted dishonestly, and without integrity or candour.
“The order does not preclude Ms Lim and Mr Low from continuing to serve as elected members of AHTC, and discharging all other functions and duties in their respective capacities, including taking part in discussions and voting in committees,” said the MND.
The Town Councils Act states that if the town council fails to comply with the order by a stipulated compliance date, it could lead to a fine of S$5,000 and, in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine of S$50 for each day that the offence continues.
This is the latest development in an eight-year saga sparked off by a plan by Mr Low and Ms Lim to ensure that FM Solutions and Services, run by friends of Mr Low and longtime WP supporters, could be appointed as AHTC’s managing agent and emergency maintenance service provider without a tender.
After the High Court’s ruling, Parliament moved a motion to call on AHTC’s chairman Faisal Manap to recuse the duo from financial matters, but in its own internal meeting, AHTC voted to keep Ms Lim’s and Mr Low’s authority.
WP has also stated it will appeal the High Court’s judgement.
MND said it has considered AHTC’s reasons — which were sent to the ministry on Dec 13 — for not requiring their recusal, noting that they did not relate directly to nor detract from the “grave and serious Court findings on Ms Lim’s and Mr Low’s conduct”.
“Further, while we note the measures that AHTC has put in place, it is not apparent – and AHTC has not demonstrated – how they would be effective to guard against a recurrence of irregularities arising from the acts of dishonest Town Councillors,” said the ministry.
The MND added: “After the appeal has been heard and disposed of, MND will consider the judgment of the appellate court carefully and review whether this order is to remain, be cancelled or be varied in any manner.”
When contacted, AHTC said it has received the order and is reviewing it. The town council added that it will issue a statement on the matter “in due course”.