Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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Hearing of lawsuits filed by independent panel for AHTC against town councillors scheduled in Oct

The civil lawsuits brought upon by an independent panel on behalf of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) against its town councillors over an alleged breach of fiduciary duties is scheduled to be heard in the High Court starting 1 Oct to 2 Nov.

Former Workers’ Party (WP) Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang, present WP Secretary-General and town council chairman Mr Pritam Singh, vice-chairperson Ms Sylvia Lim, were among the defendants named in the civil lawsuits.

Former member of the WP Youth Wing executive committee Mr Chua Zhi Hon, deputy organising secretary of the WP and WP candidate for Nee Soon GRC in General Election 2015 Mr Kenneth Foo Seck Guan, owner of the town council’s former managing agent firm FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) Ms How Weng Fan, and FMSS itself were also among the defendants named in the lawsuit.

The town councillors were accused of “breaching their duty of care and skill … in tort”.

In addition, the defendants were queried about the S$33.7 million paid to FMSS and its service provider, FM Solutions & Integrated Services, and were ordered to make up for any alleged improper payments.

Previously, AHTC demanded, including but not limited to, S$622,593.78 in liquidated claims from the defendants, as well as S$4,167,501.71 in unliquidated claims, according to The Straits Times.

The writ of summons was filed on 21 July last year by ATHC in the High Court.

Earlier, AHTC received instructions from the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to appoint a third party to recover improper payments after a KPMG report dated 31 Oct 2016 revealed improper payments totalling around S$1.5 million, with at least S$600,000 of which the audit firm said ought to be recovered.

Another writ of summons was also filed by AHTC in the High Court against FMSS on the same date in July last year relation to an arbitration case over a financial dispute emerging from the lapses at the town council found in a KPMG audit report of ATHC last year, which “had put public funds running into millions of dollars at risk of improper use”, according to The Straits Times.

It was alleged that improper payments were made by Ms How and her late husband, Mr Danny Loh, the owners of FMSS between 2011 and 2015 through a faulty system that was deliberately set up to enrich FMSS under the capacity of ATHC’s managing agent.

According to the terms of reference, the independent panel appointed by ATHC has the authority to initiate legal action, including but not limited to mediation and arbitration, on behalf of the town council for overpayments, as well as payments without proper certification of work being conducted and completed, among others.

Chaired by senior counsel Philip Jeyaretnam, the independent panel also manages the ongoing mediation and arbitration proceedings between AHTC and its former Managing Agent, FMSS.

The independent panel also comprises senior counsel N. Sreenivasan and KPMG managing partner Ong Pang Thye.

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