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Aljunied-Hougang Town Council to receive $12.9m of MND grants

The Ministry of National Development (MND) announced on 14 April that it would be disbursing operating grants for financial years 2014/15 and 2015/16 to the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) run by the Workers' Party (WP). The $12.9 million in grants was initially withheld from AHTC due to lapses in the handling of funds.

Additionally, People's Action Party (PAP) run Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) is slated to receive approximately $1.8 million. The PRPTC was originally part of the WP's Aljunied- Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) until the PAP won the single-seat ward during the 2015 General Election. AHPETC then became AHTC and is still run by the WP.

The grants for AHTC were initially withheld by the MND due to lapses found in financial governance in AHPETC, which were uncovered by AHPETC auditors and a special Auditor-General's Office (AGO) report on 6 February last year.

Last November, the Court of Appeal ordered AHTC to select one of the Big Four accounting firms to hire independent accountants to uncover and fix any lapses.

AHTC later announced the appointment of KPMG as its accountants on 1 March this year, with the WP stating that KPMG was deemed the best choice to provide an objective review of AHPETC books. The KPMG team, tasked with identifying AHTC’s outstanding non-compliances with the Town Councils Act and with reviewing of potentially improper past payments, is due to release its first monthly report on its findings today on 15 April.

Other conditions that AHTC is required to follow include setting up segregated bank accounts to receive the grants and getting the accountants to co-authorise and co-sign large payments from these accounts.

The MND has stated that with the appointment of KPMG accountants and AHTC’s full acceptance to all conditions set by MND, the MND would now disburse the grants to AHTC.

Additionally, Member of Parliament for Punggol East Charles Chong revealed that PRPTC had only received approximately $10 million in sinking funds from AHTC out of $22.5 million that was given to the AHPETC after WP won Punggol East in a by-election in 2013.

While Mr Chong stated that the exact amount owed was still being determined, he hoped that the issue would be resolved as soon as possible so that estate redevelopment works could be carried out.

The WP plans to release a statement on the matter in a couple of days to come.