The Workers’ Party (WP) “has not obfuscated or intentionally delayed” in responding to matters raised by the Minister of State for National Development, Desmond Lee.
WP Members of Parliament, Png Eng Huat and Pritam Singh said this to the media on Friday.
They were responding to Mr Lee’s accusations that the party was refusing to address questions about the alleged shortfall in service and conservancy collection by the WP-run Aljunined-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC); and that the AHPETC has run into a deficit of some $734,000.
Mr Lee, who had made the accusations twice in a week, also claimed that instead of responding to the questions, the WP had launched a “coordinated online campaign to distract the public, using falsehoods, half-truths, and speculations, by friends, sympathisers and proxies.”
“This is what the WP often does when caught under the spotlight – raise a flurry of red herrings in the hope that people forget that they have not come clean,” Mr Lee said, as reported by the press.
However, Mr Lee did not name who these “friends, sympathisers and proxies” who were supposed to be behind this “online campaign.”
Neither did he name or give examples of the “falsehoods, half-truths and speculations” which he claimed were part of the “online campaign”.
The WP, however, has reiterated several times now that the party will address the issue of the alleged service and conservancy shortfall once the Auditor’s report is completed.
The Finance Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, had ordered the Auditor in February to look into the accounts of AHPETC.
Ms Sylvia Lim, the chairman of AHPETC, had said then that the party welcomed the Auditor’s inspection of its records.
In its Annual report of 2012/2013, the AHPETC noted several financial irregularities involving the Citizens’ Consultative Committee of the area, the former managing agent of the town council and the PAP-run Aljunied Town Council itself.
Its Annual Report said:
“Preparing the Financial Statements for FY2012/2013 continues to be a challenge. As stated in our previous Annual Report FY 2011/2012, there were several handover issues which required more time to resolve.
"There were receivables from the Citizens' Consultative Committee which could not be verified. Even though the Town Council received $520,926 from the Citizens' Consultative Committee in the current financial year, these receipts could not be identified and matched to the receivables.
"An amount of $110,735 due from the IRAS was in the accounts handed over from the previous managing agent but without supporting ddocuments.
"An amount of $338,379 pertaining to "Accrual without work orders" was brought forward from Aljunied Town Council in August 2011 without details.
"Accordingly, the Auditors were unable to ascertain the validity of these amounts."
The WP said it had had difficulty trying to obtain information from the various parties about this.
In a statement in February, the WP said:
“Repeated attempts by the Town Council (TC) to obtain information from the former Managing Agent (MA) and government authorities, such as asking MND / the Housing and Development Board regarding $1.12 million which the PAP-run Aljunied TC had recorded as receivables from the Citizens Consultative Committees (CCCs) for Town Improvement Projects, did not yield answers. Further attempts in FY 2012 to get the information were also unsuccessful.”
Nonetheless, Ms Lim said the WP town council would give its full co-operation to the Auditor-General’s Office in its investigations.
On Friday, Mr Png and Mr Singh also rebutted Mr Lee’s accusations that they were delaying their response.
“(The town council has) made it known to the public that we are looking into the S&CC arrears data, and will respond to the query on the financial and arrears situation in due course.”
They also dismissed Mr Lee’s claims that the issue was one of transparency and accountability.
The AHPETC, the two WP MPs said, had made its accounts available to the Auditor General, and they expect it to be made public when the audit is completed.
Separately, the online media has reported that several PAP-run town councils had also run into deficits over the years.
Most notably, the Pasir Ris Town Council was reported to have “incurred a huge deficit” in 1997. (See here.)
And more recently, the PAP-run Tanjong Pagar Town Council was also reported to have run a deficit of some $2.3 million in FY 2011/2012. (See here.)