The Ministry of National Development (MND) on Thu (5 Dec) has requested the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) to provide information on the town council (TC)’s reasons for not requiring the recusal of two of its town councillors, Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament (MPs) Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang, following the recent High Court judgement in Oct.
MND in its Town Council Management Report (TCMR) for the financial year 2018, which covers the period from Apr last year to Mar this year, expressed its concern regarding whether the measures implemented under the advice of KPMG, the auditing firm appointed by AHTC pursuant to a Court order in 2015, “are adequate to guard against a recurrence of the past control failures if Ms Lim and Mr Low continue to be involved with AHTC’s financial affairs”.
“MND notes the recent High Court judgment in October 2019 which found that Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang, both elected town councillors of AHTC, had acted dishonestly and in breach of their fiduciary duties, and that their conduct had lacked integrity and candour.
“Despite these serious and grave findings, AHTC has resolved during its recent quarterly meeting that Ms Lim and Mr Low do not need to recuse themselves from AHTC’s financial matters.
“In this regard, MND has written to AHTC on 4 December 2019 to request for information on AHTC’s reasons for not requiring Ms Lim’s and Mr Low’s recusal on AHTC’s financial matters, and on whether AHTC intends to implement other interim measures or safeguards,” said the ministry.
MND urged AHTC to “take interim measures to safeguard its procurement and payment processes immediately” in the name of “good governance”.
“Until and unless the Court findings in respect of Ms Lim’s and Mr Low’s conduct are reversed by the appellate Court, they remain good and should be taken seriously by AHTC,” MND added.
The ministry said that it will deliberate on whether regulatory action needs to be taken in order to ensure the proper safeguarding of public monies entrusted to Town Councils upon AHTC’s response.
All TCs had unqualified financial statements for FY2018, scored “Green” in lift performance and S&CC arrears management
The TCs overall performance for FY2018, according to the MND report, is “comparable with that of previous years, with improvements observed in the area of Estate Maintenance”.
All TCs had unqualified financial statements for FY2018. However, all TCs scored “Green” in two areas, namely lift performance and S&CC arrears management.
The “Green” band was given to all TCs in FY2018, as there were fewer than two breakdowns every month for every 10 lifts managed by the TCs, and the lifts’ ARD failure rate was zero, according to MND.
On giving all of the TCs a “Green” score in S&CC arrears management, MND said in its report that fewer than four in 100 households owed arrears for three months or more, and less than 40 per cent of the monthly collectible S&CC for each town was overdue.
15 TCs scored “Green” in terms of estate cleanliness, while one was banded “Amber” by the MND. TCs which had less than four counts of cleanliness observations per block on average were given the “Green” classification, while TCs which had four or up to fewer than eight counts of cleanliness observations per block on average were banded “Amber”.
In the area of estate maintenance, 13 TCs were banded “Green” and 3 TCs were banded “Amber”. TCs which had less than four counts of maintenance observations per block on average were banded “Green”, while TCs which had four to fewer than 8 counts of maintenance observations per block on average were banded “Amber”.
14 TCs were banded “Green” and 2 TCs were banded “Amber” for corporate governance, due to one count each of non-compliance with the Town Councils Act and the Town Council Financial Rules respectively.
AHTC was one of the TCs that was given the “Green” banding in corporate governance “due in large part to the efforts of KPMG, which assisted AHTC in its remediation of past control failures and audit points over a period of 24 months”, according to MND.
“HDB had provided funding for this work done by KPMG,” the ministry noted.
Under the TCMR, TCs are assessed across five indicators, using three colour bands. The assessment is based on measurable objective criteria submitted by the TCs and their auditors.
“This is also the first report which has adopted the revised Performance Standards for estate cleanliness and estate maintenance,” according to MND.
The ministry added that the TCs’ Lift Performance Indicator will be revised to “a holistic assessment which considers the frequency and duration of lift faults” starting FY2020, which “will serve as a more direct measure of the experience of residents in using their lifts”.
“The revised Indicator will be a composite measure of the frequency of fault occurrences of all faults measured by the Tele-Monitoring System (TMS) used by TCs, and the duration of lift downtime experienced by residents as a result of such TMS faults.
“TCs which have less than 2 lift faults per 10 lifts and less than 1 hour of downtime per lift each month, will be banded “Green”. The remaining indicators are being reviewed progressively, and details will be announced when ready,” the ministry added.