HDB not given a carte blanche to look into AHTC’s affairs

Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), run by the Workers’ Party, issued a statement on Thursday afternoon, saying that it “welcomes the Court’s rejection of the submission of the Attorney-General’s Chambers that AHTC’s conduct of its defence during the course of the hearings at the High Court and at the Court of Appeal was egregious and somehow improper.”

The Attorney-General’s Chambers has been acting on behalf of Ministry of National Development (MND) and Housing Development Board (HDB) for the submission of the appeal against the judgement of the two’s application to appoint independent accountants to AHPETC for the said purpose of safeguarding government grants. The court had earlier ruled that MND failed to establish legal bases for its court application to appoint the independent accountants to the town council.

In the statement signed off by Mr Pritam Singh, Chairman of AHTC, the town council also notes the Court’s helpful clarification that the accountants to be appointed in accordance with its judgment of 27 November 2015 were not being given a carte blanche (blank cheque) to look into the town council’s affairs.

Instead, their scope was defined to identify the outstanding non-compliances with Section 35(c) of the Town Councils Act, highlighted in the Auditor-General’s report of February 2015 and the TCs’ auditors’ reports for FY13/14 and FY14/15.

In the earlier judgement passed on 27 November, the court had ruled that AHPETC (now AHTC) is to appoint accountant(s) to assist in identifying the outstanding non-compliance with s35(c) of the Town Council Act and advise on the steps that must be taken to remedy those outstanding non-compliances.

The court also ruled that the terms of reference of the accountant(s) to be appointed have to be subjected to the consent of HDB and not to be unreasonably withheld from the town council.

The report by the town council’s accountant is to be produced by 31 August 2016 with or such other date as may be agreed upon or ordered by the Court.

AHTC have since applied to the Court of Appeal for directions on the costs of the court proceedings and with regard to the appointment of accountants. The town council has said that it will further correspond with the HDB on its nomination, which will be resolved at a further hearing expected around the end of next week.