Ahead of the appeal hearing this month against the High Court decision last year on the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) case, counsels representing AHTC are seeking to add claims against then-town councillor Pritam Singh and four other individuals.
The Straits Times reported AHTC’s lawyers Shook Lin & Bok that they are making the said claims based on alleged breaches of “their duty of care and skill qua fiduciary and/or duty of care and skill in tort to AHTC”.
The others referred to by AHTC’s lawyers are David Chua Zhi Hon and Kenneth Foo — who were also town councillors during the period under question in the case — and How Weng Fan and as personal representative of the estate of her late husband Danny Loh.
Ms How and the late Mr Loh own managing agent company FM Solutions & Services and its sister company FM Solutions and Integrated Services.
In his judgement in October last year, Justice Kannan Ramesh found that while “it cannot be said that he has breached his fiduciary duties to AHTC” based on the available evidence, the former had breached his “duties of skill and care” to the Town Council in relation to the award of the first MA contract.
A lack of proper verification and an absence of sufficient safeguards, alongside the involvement of “conflicted persons” in the approval process for payments to FMSS and FMSI “created an inherent risk of overpayment”, the judge said last year.
“The standing instruction for payments to FMSS to be co-signed by the AHTC Chairman or Vice-Chairman was not a sufficient safeguard because there was no system to ensure that each cheque presented was fully verified by independent parties.
“In some instances, there was no proper verification even by conflicted persons, as supporting documents were signed after a mere tallying exercise,” he added.
Such lapses “represent a breach of the duties of skill and care” owed by the town councillors, as well as Ms How and Mr Loh, according to the judge.
“FMSS is also liable for knowing receipt for the payments to it under the first MA and EMSU contracts,” he added.
According to lawyers who spoke to ST, a plaintiff may seek permission from the court to make amendments to the statement of claim at any stage, even after a lower court has delivered judgement and before the hearing for an appeal against the decision is held.
The application is scheduled to be heard in chambers before Justice Ramesh today.
AHTC present financial status “healthy”: WP chief and Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh
Mr Singh in a televised constituency political broadcast during the recent general election period, however, said that AHTC’s latest audited figures have shown that the Town Council has accumulated a “surplus of S$7.9 million”.
This is “more than double” of that when the WP town councillors took over from the previous Aljunied Town Council in 2011.
“Since our current term in late 2015, the Town Council has steadily built up its operating fund position,” he said.
Mr Singh also highlighted again that AHTC’s financial statements “were given a clean and unqualified opinion, and the Ministry of National Development also graded AHTC’s corporate governance with a green banding” last year.
Addressing residents, Mr Singh said: “You know that services in your estate are functioning, from cleaning to pest control.”
“Cyclical works to renew the estate have been ongoing such as repainting, rewiring, and the renewal of playgrounds and exercise areas.
“There have also been improvement works such as additional linkways, and there are currently other works in progress which are resuming after the lifting of the COVID-19 restrictions,” he added.
Noting that WP is not directly in charge of managing and improving private property estates — such estates are under the jurisdiction of government agencies and the People’s Association — Mr Singh said that AHTC has nonetheless tried its best “to attend to municipal issues”.
Previously on 30 June, Mr Singh said that AHTC’s financial performance “does not look very different from the other town councils in Singapore”.
“So we’re very proud of that, and I think at this point, it’s only appropriate for me to thank not just residents, who have been an ally in this effort, but also our contractors and the town council staff, who have actually worked very hard over many years.
“We look forward to more challenges, more brighter days ahead for the residents of Aljunied,” he said.
WP nearly lost Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) by a small margin of 1.9 per cent of votes against the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the previous general election in 2015.
Mr Singh’s team this year, however, won Aljunied GRC by a larger margin this year with 59.93 per cent of the votes against the PAP team, which garnered 40.07 per cent of the votes.