It was earlier reported that Mr Charles Chong, Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Member of Parliament from People’s Action Party (PAP), may have been spreading “incorrect” news on the eve of 2015 GE, in which he eventually won in Punggol East.
Chong alleged that $22.5 million transferred to the new town council of Workers’ Party (WP) after it had won the by-election in Punggol East in 2013, was “unaccounted for”. In other words, the money had allegedly gone missing. No doubt, Chong’s message to the residents would probably have affected how some of them voted in Punggol East during the 2015 GE.
After independent auditor KPMG finally cleared WP’s Aljunied Hougang Town Council (AHTC) last month, WP MP Png Eng Huat took the opportunity to address Chong’s 2015 allegation on his Facebook page on 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 blames WP for its “qualified” financial reports
In response, Straits Times (ST) published Chong’s reply to Mr Png’s Facebook post a few days later saying that Chong had 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 said that financial statements of WP-run town council were all “qualified” by their own auditors.
In accounting, a qualified opinion is a statement issued after an audit is done by an auditor that suggests the information provided was limited in scope and/or the organization being audited has not maintained Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Auditors who deem audits as qualified opinions are advising whomever is reading the document the information within the audit is not complete or the accounting methods used by the organization do not follow GAAP.
Hence, Chong is alleging that the accounts of AHTC had got problems to begin with and that there were no reliable figures to “adequately account for the moneys” that were transferred to AHTC after 2013 by-election.
MP Png counters Chong’s reply in ST
After the Budget Debates in the last couple of weeks, Mr Png finally posted a reply on his Facebook page today (13 Mar) to counter Chong’s earlier reply in ST.
Mr Png first explained that there was no KPMG audit at the time Chong made the allegation of missing millions on the eve of GE 2015. The KPMG forensic audit, initiated by the PAP government, was called in 2016. Furthermore, KPMG audit was about the disputed payments under AHTC and not about “unaccounted money”.
“So, it is ludicrous for anyone to cite that as a basis or reference to make such an allegation in 2015,” Mr Png said.
He then highlighted three “indisputable facts”.
Firstly, all the qualified financial statements (if any) for AHTC prior to the Punggol East by-election in 2013 did not come under WP.
Secondly, Mr Png pointed out that all the “qualified” financial statements for AHTC from 2013 to 2015 “did not flag that $22.5 million from PE was missing”.
“Furthermore, the independent auditor for the handover of PE (from WP to PAP after 2015 GE) said the FS (financial statement) were properly drawn up and it gave a true and fair view of the financial position of the town as at 30 November 2015. In short, the handover FS for PE is unqualified,” Mr Png added.
Mr Png showed a snapshot of what the independent auditor said about AHTC’s financial statements on 27 Jan 2017 that the town council’s financials were cleared as at 30 Nov 2015, after 2015 GE:
Mr Png added, “Third, the auditor for Pasir Ris Punggol East Town Council (PRPTC) accepted the handover FS for PE and did not follow up with AHTC on the alleged unaccounted $22.5 million raised by Mr Chong in 2015.”
“A big sum of money was alleged unaccounted for in PE (by Chong) and no one from PRPTC is interested to find out the status?” he asked.
“So linking the alleged missing $22.5m from PE to predated and unrelated audit issues from 2011, and highlighting disputed findings from a yet to be ordered forensic audit in explaining the allegation made in the letter to PE residents on 8 September 2015, is really stretching the justification way too thin.”
Mr Png concluded, “The accounts and reports are all released now. I have waited 30 months just to get to the bottom of the alleged missing $22.5 million from PE. And yes, AHTC did hand over $26.3 million back to PRPTC, in CASH too.”
It seems that Chong has yet again spread “incorrect” news in his reply to ST – this time with regard to “qualified” financial statements by AHTC auditors linking to non-existent “unaccounted money”. Still, it is noted that Chong won in Punggol East by 51.76% with only a majority of 1,156 votes out of 33,137 in 2015 GE.
Unlike the PAP in the “Test Balloons” saga, WP did not insist that Chong withdraws his allegation and apologises. WP merely puts up their replies online for Singaporeans to judge for themselves.