Photo Credit : PAP.

Fake news saga: Chong now blames WP’s “unreliable” figures qualified by own auditors

by Vincent Low

It was earlier reported that Mr Charles Chong, Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Member of Parliament from People’s Action Party,  may have been spreading “incorrect” news on the eve of 2015 GE, in which he eventually won in Punggol East.

Three days just before 2015 GE, he distributed flyers alleging Workers’ Party (WP) has somehow “lost” $22.5 million of town council funds. “The indisputable fact is that when Punggol East was transferred to the Workers’ Party, $22.5 million was transferred to the new town council. That sum is now unaccounted for…,” he wrote.

After independent auditor KPMG said in its recent final report that the Aljunied Hougang Town Council (AHTC) had fixed all its financial and governance lapses, WP MP Png Eng Huat took the opportunity to address Chong’s allegation on his Facebook page last Thursday (15 Feb).

“I waited further for KPMG to publish its final report to complete the final piece of the puzzle (of the missing $22.5 million). The final report speaks for itself,” Mr Png said.

“We will never solve the mystery of unaccounted $22.5 million now as none of the audited statements from the two town councils and special reports by KPMG and PwC (hired by PRPTC to also look into the accounts of PE after GE2015) could shed any light on the allegation,” he countered.

Chong responds

In response, Straits Times published Chong’s reply to Mr Png’s Facebook post today (19 Feb).

Chong maintained that there was no reliable way to ascertain what happened to the money because WP had not submitted clean accounts for Punggol East.

He went on to explain to ST reporters that in 2015, the WP-run town council’s financial statements were all qualified by their own auditors.

“Consequently, there were no reliable figures to adequately account for the moneys that were transferred to them by Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council after the by-election in 2013,” he added.

Reliability is subjective depending on whose point of view. It is strange that Chong would dare make a serious accusation against WP on the eve of a general election without any objective evidence.

As things turned out, reputable international auditor KPMG also found that there was no “missing” $22.5 million like what WP own auditors have concluded. And if any local of international auditors were found operating fraudulently, there are always laws to deal with them.

A “reliable” PAP MP like Chong should have known better to make wild accusations relying only on his “subjective” intuition.

Chong attempts to redirect attention

To redirect attention, he then referred the reporters to an ongoing court case brought by AHTC against several of its town councillors over $33 million in improper payments. AHTC was directed to sue by an Independent Panel (IP) chaired by Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam who is the former President of the Law Society and brother of opposition politician Kenneth Jeyaretnam, to help recover the money.

Said Mr Chong, “Key office holders of AHTC will still have to account for more than $33 million spent by AHPETC and to recover any amounts overpaid when the suit brought by the independent panel on behalf of AHTC comes up in court later this year.”

Still, regardless of the ongoing civil lawsuit directed by IP against WP town councillors, the fact remains that Chong has spread “incorrect” news of the missing $22.5 million of town council funds right on the eve of a general election, which may have helped him to win the election in Punggol East.

Chong won by 51.76% with only a majority of 1,156 votes out of 33,137 in 2015.

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