Expedited appeal by MND against high court decision to be heard in early August

sylvia lim court

The appeal by the Ministry of National Development (MND) against the decision to dismiss its application towards Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council  (AHPETC) is set to be heard on 3 August 2015.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon set the date after seeking the approval of legal representatives of both parties.

TOC understands that the Attorney General Chambers, which is representing MND, had asked for the hearing to be in early July.

In response, AHPETC offered an alternative timeline for the hearing while not objecting to the appeal in principle.

Representing lawyer for AHPETC, Mr Peter Low said in court today that AHPETC does not object to the appeal in principle, but objects the application by MND seeking to impose conditions on the grants disbursed by the Ministry.

Citing the judgement by Justice Quentin Loh, Mr Low said the Minister is already empowered with the authority under section 42 of the Town Council Act to impose conditions on the town council and there was no need to go to court.

MND had applied to the court on 20 March to appoint independent accountants to AHPETC for the purpose of safeguarding government grants. However, the application was dismissed on 27 May by the High Court.

Justice Quentin Loh said in his 83-page judgement that MND failed to establish legal bases for its court application to appoint the independent accountants to the town council.

In his judgement, Justice Quentin Loh had urged both parties to work together to reach a consensus so that MND can disburse government grants to AHPETC amounting to $14 million, which the Ministry is withholding due to the financial lapses.

MND said last Friday that it was unable to disburse the grants to AHPETC immediately in the absence of the independent accountants, given the High Court’s grim view of the town council’s actions.

“This will delay disbursement of the S&CC grants, which ultimately puts at risk residents’ interests,” an MND spokesman said.

“The Government cannot disburse public funds to AHPETC in the current circumstances, given the very serious findings by the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) and the High Court.”

“MND’s appeal, if granted, will ensure that a court-appointed independent accountant takes appropriate steps to recover any monies that may have been lost through its financial mismanagement and questionable payments. It will also allow MND to immediately disburse the… grants to AHPETC in the interests of residents while ensuring that these public funds are adequately safeguarded.”

Workers’ Party and AHPETC chairman Sylvia Lim earlier said she was surprised that the MND is appealing Justice Loh’s decision, and “especially that they are not taking the advice of the judge that the MND and AHPETC should work together to arrange for the grants to be disbursed”.

Legal representatives of both parties will be making their submissions in the meantime prior to the hearing on 3 August.