Workers' Party MPs Court Case against Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC)



AHTC Trial DAY 11: 19 Oct 2018

Sylvia Lim admits to breaching town council financial rules by not calling for tender
Davinder Singh points out that this was done without discussing any special circumstances
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 20 Oct 2018

Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim admitted yesterday that she had breached Town Councils Financial Rules when she failed to call a tender for managing agent services in 2011.

The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) had waived a tender for managing agent services provided by FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) to Hougang SMC in June 2011, which amounted to $92,000. The AHTC merger took place after the WP won Aljunied GRC in the May 2011 General Election.

Town council rules stipulate that tenders must be called for services that are estimated to cost more than $70,000, and should be waived only "under very special circumstances and must be fully justified".

During his cross-examination on day 11 of the hearing, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh asked Ms Lim if there was any discussion about waiving a tender for services by FMSS following its June 2 proposal about providing managing agent services.

"No," Ms Lim replied.

"So, being aware, as you claimed this morning, of the town council rules, you disregarded them. You breached them. Right?" he asked.

Ms Lim said she had exercised her authority to act on behalf of the town council to waive the tender, "in circumstances of urgency".



But Mr Singh noted that there was no discussion of the urgency or circumstances of that period in Ms Lim's affidavit, "nothing in (former Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang's), nothing in the elected MPs' affidavits."

There was nothing on record about a waiver as of mid-June 2011, said Mr Singh, who asked Ms Lim if she agreed that was a breach.

"I have to agree, technically, yes." Ms Lim replied.

"Technically?" Mr Singh asked, repeating his question.

"On this date, I agree, yes," Ms Lim said, later adding that the date would have been around June 15.

Mr Singh later asked Ms Lim if it was correct that anyone who knew about the rules would know there was a breach, to which she said yes.

He then asked her who else among the elected WP MPs knew about the matter.

"I cannot remember distinctly but I believe Mr Low knew and I believe the other MPs also knew," she replied.



The Aljunied GRC MP is one of eight defendants in a multimillion-dollar civil suit to recover alleged improper payments.

Mr Singh also charged that FMSS was hired as AHTC's managing agent "under the cover of darkness" in 2011 to avoid calling for an open tender.

He noted that Ms Lim did not tell the other AHTC town councillors about the incorporation of FMSS at a meeting on June 9, 2011, at which she was given the authority to act for the town council. Neither did Ms Lim say that FMSS would be appointed without a tender to take over from incumbent managing agent CPG Facilities Management.

Mr Singh made the case that Ms Lim and the other WP MPs had decided not to tell the others about FMSS, so it could be appointed without questions.

Ms Lim disagreed.

Mr Singh later asked why a June 2 proposal by FMSS was circulated only to the elected MPs but not the other appointed councillors.

Ms Lim said she could not recall the date it reached the rest, and that the need to send them the FMSS proposal was superseded by the delegation of authority to her. She added that they did so, trusting her to make decisions accordingly.

Mr Singh said: "You did a dirty on your own town councillors."

She replied: "I disagree totally."

Mr Singh also asked Ms Lim why AHTC retained CPG's services for essential maintenance, but chose to release it as managing agent.

She had earlier suggested there was ground feedback against CPG and that, as it was "committed" to the People's Action Party cause, the opposition MPs might not be able to predict its behaviour.

Mr Singh noted that essential maintenance services would need to be carried out by a reliable company, and Ms Lim agreed. He made the point that if she was content to use CPG for some projects also beyond August 2011, when its contract would end, it meant her argument that there were complaints from the ground against CPG and that it could not be trusted, was "utter rubbish" and "all made up".

He also said the WP-led town council wanted CPG out so FMSS could come in, but at the same time wanted to take advantage of CPG's services.

Ms Lim disagreed, saying the projects were in advanced stages. She also said it was CPG that had suggested that it would continue.

"We agreed that it was reasonable," she said. "They did not ask to be relieved of all their projects."

Against claims that she wanted to have her cake and eat it too, Ms Lim replied: "That's very creative, Mr Singh, but that's not what it is."










Breach of Town Councils Financial Rules
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 20 Oct 2018

On his second day of cross-examining Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh said she had breached Town Councils Financial Rules by letting a new company take over the staff of Hougang Town Council - and charge the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) for the costs incurred.

Ms Lim, as AHTC's chairman, had been given authority on June 9, 2011, by others on the AHTC to exercise its powers and duties to facilitate the handover of Aljunied matters after the WP won the GRC in the 2011 General Election.

The new firm, FM Solutions & Services (FMSS), before it started running AHTC, moved the entire staff of Hougang Town Council to its payroll. FMSS then charged AHTC $92,000 for managing agent services it provided in June 2011 to Hougang.

Mr Singh said the town council rules require a tender to be called for services of this amount.

This is an edited excerpt of their exchange.

Davinder Singh (DS): So, being aware, as you claimed this morning, of the town council rules, you disregarded them. You breached them. Right?

Sylvia Lim (SL): I exercised my authority.

DS: Answer my question please. You breached them right?

SL: I waived the tender in circumstances of urgency.

DS: There was no urgency discussion, no circumstances discussion, nothing in your affidavit, nothing in (Mr Low Thia Khiang's), nothing in the elected MPs' affidavits.

SL: This waiver was discussed subsequently in the combined proposal.

DS: Ms Lim, we are now just before the 15th of June. Let's take ourselves back in time. We are now on the 13th, 14th, and we are having a chat. You have already decided no tender, and there is nothing on the record about a waiver, right?

SL: At this point, no.

DS: So that is a breach, right? You know the rules.

SL: I have to agree, technically, yes.

DS: Technically?... Ms Lim, let's move on , it is a breach, right?

SL: At this point, yes.

DS: What do you mean at this point? My question is, was there a breach of the rules, yes or no?

SL: On this date, I agree, yes.

DS: If anyone knew about the rules, they would know it is a breach, correct?

SL: Yes.

DS: Who else among elected MPs knew about this?

SL: I cannot remember distinctly, but I believe Mr Low knew and I believe the other MPs also knew.









WP chairman Sylvia Lim gave 'blank cheque' to agent to hire staff, says Senior Counsel Davinder Singh
By Rachel Au-Yong, Housing Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 Oct 2018

Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim had given her town council's managing agent a "blank cheque" to hire whoever it wanted, by failing to impose a limit on the number of staff it could employ.

This was one of several examples Senior Counsel Davinder Singh gave yesterday as he sought to paint Ms Lim as someone who was careless with the monies of the residents of Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC).

Ms Lim is among eight defendants in a multimillion-dollar civil suit to recover alleged improper payments.

Mr Singh, pointing to a contract in which Ms Lim signed off as town council chairman, noted that it allowed FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) to be reimbursed for new hires for an interim period without a cap. "You gave them a blank cheque. They could have hired three, 50, 250, 700 people… Where is the limit?" he asked.

Ms Lim said the limit came in the form of a limited timeframe - by July 15, 2011 - as the hires were meant to help FMSS take over the expanded town council.

FMSS got the contract to run AHTC without a tender being called for a replacement of incumbent CPG Facilities Management, which was managing the Aljunied Town Council.



Mr Singh then asked if she thought it was a "responsible thing" to let a managing agent employ workers without a cap.

After he repeated his question six times, Ms Lim said: "I believe I acted responsibly in the circumstances."

Mr Singh wanted to know how she had done so, and Ms Lim replied that there was no way to fix the number of hires.

He responded: "Can it not be that any staff to be employed would be subject to the prior consent of AHTC? As a lawyer, do you not know of that formula?"

Ms Lim said she believed FMSS would act responsibly.

Mr Singh then gave the analogy of a hired gardener who might need extra hands: "Would you tell (him), 'I will give you one month, go hire as many as you like and I will pay, but don't have to check with me'?"

Ms Lim, after some back and forth, said no.

He then asked what was the difference between the gardener and FMSS.

Ms Lim said: "With the garden, there is no need to hire people earlier, (while) the managing agent contract is a big undertaking… It is reasonable for FMSS to ask to prepare for the takeover."

Mr Singh replied: "The difference is that the first example of the garden is your money. The second is not your money, it is other people's monies… which is why you so readily agreed to give FMSS carte blanche, (telling them) not to worry, the residents will pay for it."

Another area of the contract Mr Singh found fault with was FMSS charging AHTC $1.114 million in 2011 - the same amount CPG would have billed that year.

Ms Lim admitted that at the time she signed the contract, she did not know several details, including FMSS' price and staff structure.

Mr Singh wondered how she found it reasonable to pay "a newbie" the same fees as an experienced managing agent like CPG.

Ms Lim said she was "comforted by the fact" that the price of managing agent services would remain the same.

"You seem to be a bit casual about other people's money," Mr Singh said. "Because it was the residents' money, and not coming out of your pocket, it didn't matter to you to apply your mind to negotiate for a better deal."

Ms Lim disagreed.

He added: "You were content because it served your political purpose of getting rid of CPG and having your own people in… to use residents' monies to achieve these political purposes."

Ms Lim disagreed.

Mr Singh also questioned why, under the contract, FMSS had "taken over" former Hougang Town Council staff on June 15, 2011 - a whole month before the managing agent took the reins of the entire AHTC.

Mr Singh charged that Ms Lim and other WP MPs did so to "provide sanctuary" to these workers, who may be let go if they were in AHTC while CPG was in charge.

Laughing, Ms Lim said: "I don't think so."

Mr Singh added: "You very craftily… protected WP members and supporters using the hard-earned monies of the residents… It was plotted, it was calculated and it was implemented."

Ms Lim replied: "We planned for this contingency, but I don't agree with whatever derogatory term you used."





WP-run town council had time to call a tender for new managing agent, says lawyer
By Adrian Lim, Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 Oct 2018

The Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) could have kept its incumbent managing agent for longer, and this would have given it up to four months to call a tender for a replacement in 2011, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh said yesterday.

There was "no need to get rid of" CPG Facilities Management after July 31, 2011, as it could have been retained by AHTC exercising its contractual rights, he added, in an ongoing hearing of a multimillion-dollar civil suit alleging improper payments.

But AHTC removed CPG because WP chairman Sylvia Lim had decided that a new agent would be appointed and an open tender waived, Mr Singh charged when cross-examining Ms Lim for the second day.

Mr Singh said there were even discussions for CPG to stay until Sept 30, 2011, to ensure that the handover was done properly.

As CPG had told the AHTC on May 30, 2011, that it was terminating its contract, retaining it until Sept 30 that year would have given the town council four months to call a tender, Mr Singh said yesterday, the 11th day of the lawsuit against eight people, including three WP MPs.

Ms Lim responded that the Town Council Management System (TCMS) - a software offered by CPG's computer vendor - was no longer available in September.

Keeping CPG on was possible legally and "in theory", she said, and the tender would have required two months. But the WP MPs' assessment was that they had to put in a "committed team" that would work for the residents, Ms Lim added.

Mr Singh retorted: "Don't blame the residents for your decision to not have a tender."



In 2013, Ms Lim had said in Parliament that an open tender was waived because a managing agent had to be put in place quickly for a handover. Yesterday, Mr Singh also established that on May 9, 2011 - just two days after winning Aljunied GRC in a general election - the WP MPs had already decided to appoint their own managing agent.

He said they should have considered then the need to call a tender.

He asked Ms Lim how she had "jumped" from considering calling a tender to waiving one.

Ms Lim said this was decided based on the assumption that CPG had been working with People's Action Party-run town councils, and since the way MPs managed their town councils would have some bearing on their electoral success, CPG would be committed to the PAP.

When Mr Singh asked Ms Lim again for an answer on not calling a tender, she replied: "It is a timing issue, and secondly, based on the experience of the past, we knew that very likely, we had better rely on ourselves and do risk mitigation."

Mr Singh asked: "Therefore, when you thought about a waiver, you thought about relying on yourselves?"

Ms Lim replied: "We had to plan."

Asked who the "we" referred to, Ms Lim said it was herself and WP's former chief Low Thia Khiang.

Mr Singh responded: "Which means that as of May 9, it would at least have been decided by the two top people of the party that you were going to appoint your own managing agent."

At yesterday's hearing, Mr Singh said repeatedly that Ms Lim was refusing to give a "yes" or "no" answer.

It led her lawyer, Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, to point out that she was also entitled to say she was "unable to answer yes or no", and then proceed to explain.

At one point, Mr Singh told Ms Lim: "You can be an obstreperous witness if you like... but you still have to answer the questions."








AHTC Trial DAY 10: 18 Oct 2018

Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim lied to town councillors, Parliament, court, says Davinder Singh
WP chairman disagrees with lawyer's claim she misled them on why town council software had to be upscaled
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 19 Oct 2018

Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim lied to her fellow town councillors, Parliament and the court by giving the false impression that the WP-led town council was forced to upscale a computer system because a software company terminated its contract, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh charged yesterday.

Mr Singh noted that according to Ms Lim, the termination by Action Information Management (AIM) led to an urgent need to upscale an existing management system used in Hougang to avoid a disruption of services to residents in Aljunied GRC, which the WP won in the 2011 General Election.

But he put it to her that it was a false impression that she "knowingly and deliberately perpetuated", which she disputed.


During his cross-examination, Mr Singh pointed to several documents to make the case that the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) had decided to upscale a software system even before learning on May 30, 2011, that AIM would discontinue its contract.

This included a May 13 letter signed off by Ms How Weng Fan, a majority owner of AHTC managing agent FM Solutions & Services, which mentioned information and documents needed by Hougang Town Council's computer vendor.

Mr Singh suggested that the reason the vendor required this information was to upscale Hougang's software so it could now serve the purposes of the enlarged AHTC.

"Before May 13 when this letter was sent out, it had already been decided that the Hougang Town Council computer vendor would be asked to upscale the computer system, right?" Mr Singh asked.

Ms Lim replied: "It could be on the 13th itself, but I agree it would have to happen before the letter was sent out."

She later said the town council had started "preparatory works" on upscaling the computer system in anticipation of AIM terminating its contract, based on past experience.



In another instance, Mr Singh noted that Ms Lim had said in her affidavit that she and Ms How were informed in early June 2011 that AIM would withdraw its town council management system.

But following questioning by Mr Singh, Ms Lim conceded that some work related to upscaling took place in May - before AHTC faced "imminent termination" of AIM's contract.

The WP chairman is one of eight defendants in a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit brought by AHTC and the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council, which Mr Singh is representing.

Mr Singh also contended that far from causing AHTC to have to upscale its software, AIM had given the town council all the time it needed to transition to the new computer system.

He noted that AHTC had put up a request to continue with the AIM system until Aug 31, 2011, which AIM agreed to. The software company had earlier said on June 10 that it would be giving a one-month notice of termination, but did so only on June 22, he added. It subsequently extended its services to Aug 31, and later, at AHTC's request, to Sept 9.

Ms Lim replied that the first extension was in part for the benefit of AHTC's then managing agent CPG Facilities Management, which needed to use the system.

The Sept 9 extension was to facilitate CPG's audit work as well, she said, although she agreed that it was also for the benefit of the new management.

"You see, Ms Lim, far from AIM trying to undermine AHTC or the WP, it bent over backwards to accede to the requests that were sought... do you agree?" Mr Singh asked.

"Bent over backwards is a very loaded phrase," Ms Lim replied.

Mr Singh put to her that the company agreed to give AHTC the time that it needed, despite being under no obligation to do so.

Ms Lim replied: "They agreed to do that, yes."

Mr Singh also noted that AIM's representative Sasidharan Nair had been described as helpful and nice by Ms How.

Despite this, said Mr Singh, Ms Lim had "misled everyone" that the opposition-run town council had to upscale its computer system because AIM terminated its contract.

"You lied to your town council members, you lied to Parliament, you lied in this court in your defence... And even now, you don't have the honour to accept that what you did was wrong," he charged.

Ms Lim disagreed.












Workers' Party town council said to have given impression it would use own IT systems
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 19 Oct 2018

In May 2011, Hougang Town Council secretary How Weng Fan sent e-mails to the incumbent managing agent of Aljunied Town Council, CPG Facilities Management, and the Housing Board was copied in the course of the correspondence.

These e-mails created the impression that Workers' Party (WP)-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) would be using its own IT systems to run its operations, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh said yesterday.

Hence, it would not be unreasonable for computer vendor Action Information Management (AIM), which was servicing Aljunied Town Council, to start the process of terminating its contract with the town council, Mr Singh added.

He made the point, when cross-examining WP chairman Sylvia Lim, to show that AHTC had begun to upscale an existing IT system it had, even before it was told on May 30 by CPG that AIM would be pulling out.



The existing IT system was being used in the Hougang Town Council, and its expansion was to enable it to also serve the residents of Aljunied GRC, which the WP had won from the ruling party in the May 7, 2011, General Election.

So, the decision by AHTC to upscale the software was not based on anything which AIM had told the town council, Mr Singh said.

Ms Lim agreed, saying the decision was based on what had happened in the 1990s, when opposition-run town councils had to fend for themselves and develop their own IT systems.

This happened to former WP chief Low Thia Khiang when he won single-seat Hougang and ran its town council, she said.

Hence, when the WP won Aljunied GRC in 2011, "we came to the conclusion that we had better take some pre-emptive measures to safeguard our residents' interests", she added.

Mr Singh also said that the e-mails the WP MPs circulated among themselves in May 2011 did not show there was any concern over AIM terminating its contract with Aljunied Town Council.

He asked if there was any e-mail or correspondence which showed this.

Ms Lim replied that she recalled a meeting which the WP MPs had with HDB's town council secretary Chong Weng Yong on May 20, 2011.

Mr Chong had asked them if they had an IT system they could upscale, Ms Lim said.

Mr Chong later wrote to Ms How to provide her with the contact details of the AIM representative, she said.

Ms Lim added that Mr Chong copied the e-mail to the WP MPs because he knew of their concerns.

Mr Singh responded: "What concern? I asked you to find something, anything which recorded a concern. All I see instead is your objective to upscale (the computer system)."

The lawyer highlighted several May 2011 e-mails that were sent among Ms How, Aljunied Town Council general manager and CPG managing director Jeffrey Chua, and the HDB.

These were to arrange for meetings between the incumbent and new computer vendors as well as for the transfer of data and information, among other issues.

On the issue of how AIM might have reacted to the e-mails, Mr Singh asked: "If a contracted party gets the impression that the other party wants to go it alone, it would be reasonable for that unwanted contracted party to initiate the separation process?"

Ms Lim said that it depends, and later explained that the correspondence up to end-May was about the financial collection system only, and what AIM was providing - the Town Council Management System (TCMS) - was much more.

Ms Lim said the WP MPs decided it was not likely they would be able to use the TCMS, and that starting to upscale their IT software was a "contingency".








Sylvia Lim, Davinder Singh cross swords on software firm
The Straits Times, 19 Oct 2018

Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim and Senior Counsel Davinder Singh yesterday disagreed over whether Ms Lim lied that the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) began to upscale its computer system only after the People's Action Party-owned software firm Action Information Management (AIM) said it would terminate its contract. Here is an edited excerpt.

Davinder Singh: In your defence, you gave the impression that it was because AIM had terminated its contract that AHTC had to upscale its computer system. In your affidavit, you gave that same impression. In Parliament, you gave that very same impression. To your own town council members, you gave that impression as well. In all the instances I have shown you, you led the town council, the court, Parliament and the public to believe that it was because AIM had terminated (its contract) that AHTC had no choice but to upscale, and therefore was put in a difficult position as far as its collections were concerned, correct?

Sylvia Lim: Yes.

DS: And as we know from the documents, that was a false impression that was knowingly and deliberately perpetuated by you because you knew the facts.

SL: I disagree.

DS: The facts were that the upscaling was already decided before and AIM, far from causing the (need for) upscaling, was giving AHTC all the time it needed for the (software tests).

SL: I was there, and it was not as you put it.

DS: But you agreed earlier that the upscaling commenced in May.

SL: Preparatory works, yes.

DS: You agreed it was before the tip-off from Jeffrey Chua.

SL: Yes.

DS: You agreed with me that when you wanted until Aug 31, AIM gave you till Aug 31.

SL: Yes.

DS: You agreed with me that AIM had no contractual obligation to give you until Aug 31.

SL: I believe so.

DS: You also agreed that AIM went beyond its contract to assist the town council.

SL: Yes.

DS: Despite all of this, you misled everyone. You gave them the false impression, including in Parliament... that AIM terminated and therefore you had to upscale. You lied.

SL: I disagree.

DS: You lied to your town council members, to Parliament, in this court, in your defence.

SL: I disagree.

DS: And even now you don't have the honour to accept that what you did was wrong.

SL: I disagree, Mr Singh.










Unusual start to trial as Low Thia Khiang seeks to clarify why he felt 'distrust' over ex-managing agent
Low says he had doubts about CPG's agent on town council
Davinder questions whether ex-WP chief should be allowed to clarify previous answers
By Rachel Au-Yong, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 19 Oct 2018

Former Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang was so troubled by some answers he gave on Wednesday that the next day, he asked the court to let him clarify his testimony.

But Senior Counsel Davinder Singh objected, saying it was "inappropriate for a witness to volunteer" information when he was not called to do so.

The request was an unusual start to yesterday's session, the 10th day of a civil suit to recover alleged improper payments Mr Low and seven others made to their managing agent, FM Solutions & Services (FMSS), using Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) funds.

The issue that troubled Mr Low was his answers on letting incumbent managing agent CPG Facilities Management sit in on a meeting on July 21, 2011.

On Wednesday, he had said repeatedly he was "uncomfortable" about CPG's presence and that there was a level of "distrust" but could not tell Mr Singh why he felt that way.

Mr Singh then charged that he and his fellow MPs did not want CPG to find out they were appointing a new managing agent because they wanted to avoid calling a tender.

Yesterday, Mr Low told the judge: "If I don't clarify, Your Honour might smell a rat with the suggestion from Mr Singh that I had something to hide (and that would be) a miscarriage of justice. I thought it was better to explain... what was ( behind) my hesitancy."

The reason he was not comfortable having one of the CPG representatives present at the meeting was due to his previous dealings with the man, he said.

Mr Singh countered that Mr Low had made up the evidence overnight.



For 20 minutes, Mr Singh and Mr Low's lawyer, Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, argued whether the veteran MP should be allowed to take the stand.

Mr Singh said, among other things, that letting Mr Low speak in this "twilight zone", between the end of cross-examination and the start of re-examination, would give him "carte blanche… to add anything he wishes to add".

"There is no such provision in our rules and processes which allows the witness to dictate what he wishes to state," Mr Singh added, urging the court to take a "principled approach".

But Mr Rajah said Mr Low's request was not an unusual one, and the court normally takes what is a "sensible, proactive and fair" stand.

In the end, Justice Kannan Ramesh allowed the WP MP to make his clarifications.

Mr Low said he did not trust Mr Seng Joo How, the CPG representative appointed AHTC's deputy secretary on June 9, 2011, a few weeks before the July 21 meeting.

His bad experience with Mr Seng, now CPG's chief executive, dated back to 1991, when the latter was a Housing Board official dealing with town councils, Mr Low said.

At that time, Mr Low had just been elected MP for Hougang, and he encountered several obstacles that he believes were politically motivated, including the sudden termination of his town council's office at HDB premises.

Mr Seng was a "public servant who was supposed to help but didn't seem to do so", he said. "I can't expect… to feel comfortable discussing matters of importance to the town council."

He added: "I was hesitant yesterday because this goes into personal matters and it may not be fair to him because he is not here... But because of the inference Mr Singh made, it would be an injustice to us if I let this injustice (to Mr Seng) take priority."

Mr Singh charged that Mr Low made up the evidence, after realising people would wonder why he could not give an answer.

"You considered it would not just be damaging to you legally but politically, because you could not answer why something, which you claim is completely defensible, was suppressed," he said.

Mr Low disagreed, and said later that he did not share his concerns about Mr Seng with his fellow town councillors as he thought it was not fair for him "to question his integrity" over issues that took place more than 20 years ago.

Mr Seng was unanimously appointed AHTC's deputy secretary in June 2011, and when Mr Low was asked repeatedly if he supported the decision, he answered each time that he "did not object" instead of giving a yes or no answer.

Finally, Mr Singh asked: "You were a member of the town council, all of whom appointed Mr Seng as deputy secretary, correct?"

Mr Low said: "Yes."

Mr Singh responded: "So the evidence you dreamt up last night is not just false, but you came to this court this morning... determined to lie and mislead His Honour."

Mr Low said that was not true.









AHTC trial: Low Thia Khiang explains reason for distrust of CPG, Davinder Singh says he's lying to the court
By Lydia Lam, Channel NewsAsia, 18 Oct 2018

The 10th day of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) trial opened with a series of sharp exchanges on Thursday (Oct 18), with Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Low Thia Khiang attempting to explain evidence he had given a day earlier to strong objection from lawyer Davinder Singh, who accused him of lying to the court and misleading the judge.

Mr Singh, who acts for Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), stated at the outset of the morning’s proceedings that he was done with his cross-examination of Mr Low. At this, Mr Low cut in and asked the judge if he could clarify an answer he had given on Wednesday.

Mr Singh objected strongly, saying that this was “not permissible” as any clarification should have been done during the cross-examination itself, and not at this point before re-examination by the defence lawyer Chelva Retnam Rajah.

Mr Rajah in his client’s defence asked Justice Kannan Ramesh to allow Mr Low to clarify what he had earlier said, as "it is in my experience invariably allowed".

Mr Singh referred to the Evidence Act, saying that "none of what Mr Low seeks to do is permitted" under those rules.

"Your honour, my learned friend's point that if Mr Low had made this statement (to clarify) hours after the cross-examination had ended, that would be a different thing," Mr Singh said. "Whereas here, according to him, Mr Low spoke five seconds after I said my cross-examination is complete. It is not the time that matters, it is the principle."

The judge agreed. However, he eventually allowed Mr Low to explain his earlier evidence "briefly", as he said "it's only in my interests to see the full picture".



Mr Low then addressed a point which Mr Singh on Wednesday had grilled him on - the reason for the feelings of distrust and discomfort which Mr Low had with regard to allowing incumbent managing agent CPG Facilities Management to sit in on a meeting on Jul 21, 2011.

Mr Singh had asked Mr Low why an email trail appeared to show that he and his fellow elected MPs moved the meeting back so that CPG employees would not attend it.

Pressed by Mr Singh to explain why they decided to defer the meeting, Mr Low repeatedly said that he was “uncomfortable” having certain discussions with a CPG representative in attendance, and that there was a level of “distrust”. However, when asked by Mr Singh at least 26 times to explain why he felt that "distrust", Mr Low had no direct answer.

On Thursday, however, Mr Low told the court that he went home and thought about it and decided to explain. Otherwise he said it could “undermine” his and his fellow defendants’ case.

Mr Low, along with fellow MPs Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh and AHTC councillors Kenneth Foo and Chua Zhi Hon are being sued by AHTC and PRPTC for alleged breaches of fiduciary duty relating to the appointment of its former managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS).

This, along with “flawed governance” of the town council and “improper” payments of more than S$33 million made mostly to FMSS, are the subject of two lawsuits that also are aimed at FMSS employees How Weng Fan and Danny Loh, who also held positions at AHTC. They are themselves being sued as well.

MR LOW'S DISTRUST WAS OF CPG CEO, FORMER HDB STAFF

Interrupted by Mr Singh at several points, Mr Low told the court that his distrust pertained to Mr Seng Joo How, the chief executive of CPG.

He explained that Mr Seng was one of "the key personnel who was managing Aljunied Town Council (ATC)". WP was to take over ATC after it won Aljunied GRC in the 2011 general election. It then merged ATC with Hougang Town Council (HTC), to form AHTC.

Mr Low claimed that his distrust of Mr Seng was based on his previous experience with him in 1991, when Mr Seng was "a public servant at the Housing Development Board (HDB)".

According to Mr Low, HDB allegedly "terminated" managing agent services provided to the town council and also terminated the tenancy agreement of the HTC office.

"I was certainly faced with that situation of no office, no one to manage HTC," said Mr Low. "At that point in time, when I was faced with that situation, I thought the only possible source of redress was to seek help from HDB, which has a town council secretariat. So I went to HDB and I asked them, and HDB (was) not prepared to build an office for me." Mr Singh then said that Mr Low was "going into the history" of what happened in 1991, when his question was about the circumstances in 2011.

"Please Mr Low, please mind your place," Mr Singh said.

The judge asked Mr Low to address directly what his discomfort was with CPG.

Mr Low agreed and answered: "Because of this experience I had with Mr Seng Joo How in 1991, being a public servant supposed to help but didn't seem to do so, I can't expect myself to feel comfortable sitting with him at the same table discussing matters important to the town council."

"The reason I was hesitant yesterday was ... because it went into personal matters. I think it may not be fair to (Mr Seng) as he was not here," Mr Low explained. "I thought if the plaintiff can call him here ... I think it will be easier, but my concern is that because it may affect Mr Seng, if the media may pick it up and spin it ... it may be injustice to him."

"But because of the inference Mr Singh made, I thought it may do injustice to us (the defendants), if I'm so concerned about the injustice to him (Mr Seng). I did not expect the cross-examination to end so fast," said Mr Low.

Taking his turn to question Mr Low on the evidence he had just given, Mr Singh said: "Mr Low, I suggest to you that you have made up this evidence."

"Not true," Mr Low replied.

"I suggest to you that overnight, and this morning, after reading the reports of yesterday's proceedings, you realised that you have to come up with some sort of a reason otherwise the public and the residents of AHTC would wonder why if there was nothing to hide, you didn't want to talk about FMSS and the letter of intent in the presence of CPG," said Mr Singh.

"This is not true. I have not read the -"

"That's my suggestion," Mr Singh cut in. "And you considered that it will not just be damaging to you legally but politically because you cannot answer why something that you claim is completely defensible was suppressed. Do you agree?"

"I disagree," Mr Low answered. "I have not read the press reports. Neither did I even read the transcript."

Mr Singh then brought Mr Low through the minutes of the first AHTC meeting on Jun 9, 2011.

He asked Mr Low if a town council meeting was held to discuss matters of importance to the town council and to the residents that may be confidential. Mr Low agreed to this. 

He then asked Mr Low if the appointment of a secretary and deputy secretary of a town council was a very important appointment, to which Mr Low again agreed.

"You would not appoint someone a secretary unless you considered him to be good, reliable and trustworthy?" Mr Singh asked.

"Yes," Mr Low replied.

"Likewise for deputy secretaries?"

"Yes."

Mr Singh then referred to minutes that showed that the town council approved the appointment of Jeffrey Chua as secretary and Seng Joo How as deputy secretary.

"As of June 2011, you considered Mr Seng Joo How to be good, reliable and trustworthy, correct?" Mr Singh asked.

"Not me," Mr Low replied.

"Was this decision to appoint Mr Jeffrey Chua and Mr Seng Joo How not a unanimous decision?" Mr Singh questioned.

"It is," Mr Low answered.

"You already told us that the appointment of a deputy secretary is (for) one whom you would consider is good, reliable and would trust," said Mr Singh. "Now, if you voted to appoint Mr Seng Joo How deputy secretary on Jun 9, 2011, would you agree with me that it follows from your own answer that you considered him good, reliable and trustworthy? Yes or no?"

"I did not share-" Mr Low began, but was cut off by Mr Singh. After a long back-and-forth where Mr Low did not answer yes or no, and instead said he did not object to the appointment of Mr Seng as deputy secretary, Mr Singh rephrased his question, saying he would continue until he got his answer.

"Having regard to your own belief that you act responsibly and honestly, having regard to your own belief that you had to appoint the best man to the job, having regard to your own belief that the deputy secretary had to be good, reliable and trustworthy, you were a member of the town council, all of whom appointed Mr Seng Joo How as deputy secretary, correct?" Mr Singh asked.

"Yes," Mr Low answered.

"So Mr Low," Mr Singh continued, "The evidence that you dreamt up last night is not just false, but you came to this court this morning ready and determined to lie and to mislead His Honour."

"That's not true, Mr Singh," Mr Low said.

"I have no further questions," Mr Singh said to the judge.

Lead lawyer for AHTC, David Chan, said he had no questions for Mr Low, and defence lawyer Chelva Retnam Rajah began his re-examination of Mr Low.

The trial continued with Ms Sylvia Lim taking the witness stand.





FMSS not 'locked in' as managing agent, says ex-WP chief Low Thia Khiang
By Seow Bei Yi and Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 19 Oct 2018

Former Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang clarified yesterday that he had not agreed to a previous assertion by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh that FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) had been "locked in" as the managing agent of the opposition-run town council.

Instead, when he replied in the affirmative, it was to the first part of Mr Singh's question.

The question put to Mr Low was whether he had said that none of three experienced companies would have been prepared to provide managing agent services to the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), and that FMSS was "locked in" as AHTC's agent.

His clarification was made when he was re-examined by his own lawyer Chelva Rajah.

Senior Counsel Rajah had asked him what his answer was to the second part of Mr Singh's question - on whether FMSS was locked in.

Mr Low replied: "No."

Yesterday, Mr Rajah also sought to establish that a hypothetical scenario put to Mr Low by Mr Singh on Wednesday was not realistic.

Mr Singh had said that it seems Mr Low would have rejected a cheaper tenderer with more experience than FMSS and more qualified staff - if it did not fulfil one condition. And that condition is that it must hire the existing staff of WP-run Hougang Town Council, because Mr Low's overriding concern was their employment.

Mr Low had replied: "Yes."



Yesterday, Mr Rajah asked Mr Low if, in reality, he expected any of the established companies to put in such a tender.

Before Mr Low could answer, Mr Singh objected, saying that was a different question and not a clarification of Mr Low's earlier reply.

Justice Kannan Ramesh noted that the thrust of Mr Singh's question had been whether Mr Low's overarching consideration was the employment of the Hougang staff, suggesting the clarification was not relevant.

To this, Mr Rajah replied: "The relevance of my question is to show that the hypothetical is, in fact, a non-existent (one)."

Mr Singh interjected: "My question was not designed to ask him if that hypothetical is something that he accepts, (if it) is realistic or unrealistic; my question was to explore his state of mind and what was driving him at that time."

Mr Rajah replied: "The state of mind that is driving him is not one that is formed by the hypothetical, especially non-existent (ones)... it is formed by reality."

Justice Ramesh said the point had been raised in Mr Low's affidavit, bringing the matter to a close.





AHTC Trial DAY 9: 17 Oct 2018

Workers' Party's Low Thia Khiang had no intention to call for a tender, says Davinder Singh
Lawyer asks how matter could have escaped attention of experienced town councillor
By Rachel Au-Yong, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 18 Oct 2018

Several times yesterday, former Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang said the idea of calling a tender to appoint a new managing agent for Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) did not cross his mind.

His cross-examiner, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, pointed out that Mr Low had been chairman of a town council for 20 years, and said it could not have escaped his attention that a tender was needed.

He also asked why Mr Low did not get incumbent managing agent CPG Facilities Management to stay on while a tender was called.

Referring to Mr Low and the other WP MPs, Mr Singh said: "How can it be that all these MPs, including an experienced town councillor who has been a chairman for 20 years and three lawyers, didn't even raise this issue of the need to call for a tender, and for that purpose, to ask CPG to hang on until the tender is done?"

"But that is a fact," Mr Low replied.

"It is either that, Mr Low, or as I suggest to you, there was no intention to call a tender," Mr Singh said.

Mr Low responded: "It did not cross my mind whether a tender should be called under the circumstances... The thought just didn't arise in the mind."

The exchange unfolded on the ninth day of a multimillion-dollar civil suit to recover alleged improper payments made by AHTC. Mr Singh is representing Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council in the case.



The Senior Counsel subsequently sought to establish that Mr Low and his fellow town councillors had planned for FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) to manage the town council from the start, as evidenced by notes that indicated new staff would "take over" from CPG on July 15.

According to the defence, CPG had told the town council of its desire to leave its contract only on May 30, 2011. But as there was a July 15 date marked for takeover, there was no time to carry out a tender.

Mr Singh said calling a tender "would have upset the plan".

Mr Low disputed this, and said the "contingency plan" for FMSS to serve as managing agent only kicked in when CPG asked to leave.

Mr Singh said: "The reason it would appear that it didn't occur to you (to call a tender) is because you were proceeding with FMSS, when it comes down to it."

FMSS was "the best possible option we could have", Mr Low said.

But Mr Singh pointed out: "It is not a question about there being no time to do a tender, it is not a question where you were being put in a situation where it would be a rush to call a tender... Your own fallback plan would be inconsistent with calling a tender."

Mr Low replied: "Yes, you can say that, but it has never been on my mind to call a tender in the first place."



Mr Singh then highlighted various e-mails to make the point that Mr Low knew that CPG's services could be extended beyond July 31 if needed - contrary to his defence that there was not enough time to call for a tender.

"According to your case, the time that AHTC would have needed to call for a tender is two months… So, there would have been enough time to do a tender, and even if time was a bit tight, you could have asked CPG to stay on," said Mr Singh.

Mr Low said: "In theory, yes."

Mr Singh responded: "What do you mean in theory? In your own defence you said two months (was needed)... you had the two-month period between June 1 and July 31. In fact, if you needed more time, you could have asked CPG to stay on for a little longer."

Towards the end of the six-hour hearing, Mr Singh drew Mr Low's attention to an e-mail he received from a WP member six days after his party won Aljunied GRC in May 2011. The WP member had advised Mr Low to prepare to call a tender for a new managing agent.

Mr Singh charged: "Therefore your entire evidence that you gave today about the tender having not crossed your mind and no one telling you about the tender is regrettably untrue."

Mr Low disagreed.

Mr Singh said: "In fact, it would appear from the documents that there was a concerted attempt to hide this plan so that you can avoid a tender, so that nothing can stop you from engaging FMSS."

"No, there was no such plan," Mr Low replied.





Disclosure of conflict issue not a big deal: Low Thia Khiang
He says he and Sylvia Lim intended to disclose it but may have missed issue as they were busy
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 18 Oct 2018

Former Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang did not think it was a "big deal" when he and party chairman Sylvia Lim failed to disclose an apparent conflict of interest in the town council they were running.

This was revealed in the High Court yesterday, the second day Mr Low was on the stand in the ongoing multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit involving three WP MPs.

Questioning Mr Low about conflicts of interest, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh put to him that he had been aware of them as early as Aug 3, 2011, when then WP MP Yaw Shin Leong had copied Mr Low in an e-mail addressed to Ms Lim.

In it, Mr Yaw asked if there was a need to disclose that Mr Danny Loh - whose business, FM Solutions & Integrated Services, provided maintenance services for Hougang Town Council - was married to the town council's then secretary How Weng Fan.



The Hougang Town Council had previously awarded Mr Loh's firm an Essential Maintenance Services Unit contract. The couple were involved in setting up Aljunied-Hougang Town Council's (AHTC) new managing agent, FM Solutions & Services (FMSS).

Mr Low replied to the e-mail saying there was no harm mentioning it, while Ms Lim said they should enclose a document - showing the company's stakeholders - in the AHTC minutes. She added that she would arrange for it.

Mr Singh, who represents the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council which is suing Mr Low and Ms Lim, among others, pointed out that the disclosure was not made: "Did you ask Ms Lim why it wasn't done?"

Mr Low replied that he did not. When pressed to give a reason, he said: "Why should I? She is the chairman."

Mr Singh's retort: "You are a town councillor, and the vice-chairman."

Mr Low explained that he and Ms Lim may have missed the issue as they were busy at the time.

Mr Singh put to him that he could not have missed her e-mail response indicating her intent to do so, given that it was a day before the town councillors' meeting, and she replied two hours after he did.

To this, Mr Low said he did not know if he read her e-mail then, but added he did not ask her about it.

"It would appear that having decided initially it should be disclosed, a decision was made not to," Mr Singh said.

Mr Low replied that it would be best to ask Ms Lim, and questioned if it was "a big deal" to disclose it.

To which Mr Singh said: "It is not a big deal? Do you know we are in court today because of this?"

Mr Low clarified: "At that point of time, it wasn't a big deal."

Mr Singh asked: "Today, now that you know what the issues are, having heard everything, it is still not a big deal?"

On further questioning, Mr Low conceded it did appear to be a serious matter, given the court case had advanced to this stage.



Mr Singh pressed on: "The e-mails show that it was an important issue even then. Three minds were applied to the issue, and... a decision was made to suppress this from the town councillors."

Mr Low held his ground, maintaining that it was "absolutely not true".

The disclosure of Ms How's marriage to Mr Loh, who died in 2015, was one of several conflicts of interest that came under the spotlight yesterday. Earlier in the day, it was also revealed that Mr Low and Ms Lim did not think it was a big issue that Mr Loh and Ms How - both of whom were majority owners of AHTC's managing agent FMSS - were going to be employed by AHTC as well.

"Could you explain why in circumstances where your senior employees at AHTC, the most senior employees, were shareholders of FMSS... that did not give rise to a concern?" asked Mr Singh.

Mr Low replied that it was industry practice for it to happen that employees hold appointments on both sides - it was up to the town council to manage this conflict.

"It is a conflict which can be mitigated," he added.





ON THE DISCLOSURE NOT BEING MADE

Senior Counsel Davinder Singh: Did you ask Ms (Sylvia) Lim why it wasn't done?"

Former WP chief Low Thia Khiang: Why should I? She is the chairman.

Mr Singh: You are a town councillor, and the vice-chairman.

Mr Singh: It would appear that having decided initially it should be disclosed, a decision was made not to.

Mr Low: Why is it a big deal whether or not to disclose it?

Mr Singh: It is not a big deal? Do you know we are in court today because of this?

Mr Low: At that point of time, it wasn't a big deal.

Mr Singh: Today, now that you know what the issues are, having heard everything, it is still not a big deal?... The e-mails show that it was an important issue even then. Three minds were applied to the issue, and... a decision was made to suppress this from the town councillors.



ON AHTC STAFF HOLDING APPOINTMENTS ON BOTH SIDES

Mr Singh: Could you explain why in circumstances where your senior employees at AHTC, the most senior employees, were shareholders of FMSS... that did not give rise to a concern?

Mr Low: (replying that it was industry practice... and that it was up to the town council to manage this conflict) It is a conflict which can be mitigated.








Ex-WP chief Low Thia Khiang 'directed' new managing agent, FMSS even before official appointment, says lawyer
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 18 Oct 2018

Former Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang had "directed" a new managing agent to bring Hougang Town Council's staff under its control even before it was officially appointed, lawyer Davinder Singh said yesterday.

The Senior Counsel also charged that Mr Low had already conceived a plan to fund the newly formed FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) using monies from the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC).

But Mr Low said his May 2011 e-mail to Ms How Weng Fan, whose late husband Danny Loh started FMSS, was just stating the conditions FMSS would have to meet in the event the firm was appointed managing agent for AHTC.

Mr Singh repeatedly questioned Mr Low about where FMSS would find the money to hire the staff from Hougang Town Council.

Mr Low replied: "They will go and find the money. It is their company... I am sure they have their own plan."

Mr Singh said: "You were the one who told Ms How to set up the company, and told Ms How that FMSS should engage the Hougang (Town Council) staff... When you say their plan, it was all your plan... It was you who was driving the entire thing."

Mr Low said it was up to FMSS to find an investor and the money.



Mr Singh made the case that Mr Low and his fellow WP MPs had already decided to terminate the incumbent managing agent for Aljunied Town Council, CPG Facilities Management, before CPG told them on May 30, 2011, that it wanted out.

That was evident, he said, in an e-mail circulated among the WP MPs days before May 30. It said "the existing managing agent of Aljunied Town Council will report to us until we release them at such date, no later than Aug 1".

Mr Low said this was just an assumption the town councillors made, that CPG would ask to leave.

Nothing in the e-mail suggested any such assumption, said Mr Singh, who is representing Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council in the civil lawsuit.

Mr Low said: "It is not here (in the e-mail), lah. It has always been on our minds."

Mr Singh responded: "I am sorry to say that you are not being honest."

Mr Low replied: "I am here looking you in the eye and telling you the truth."

Mr Singh said many people have looked him in the eye and told him things that were untrue.

"I declare I am honest," Mr Low responded.

After being pressed again by Mr Singh, Mr Low said: "I think you are right. It appears to be that we have decided. But the fact is that we haven't."



The High Court also heard yesterday that in FMSS' Letter of Intent sent to AHTC in June 2011, the firm said its scope of work would follow the specifications stipulated in CPG's contract with Aljunied Town Council.

Mr Singh said that Mr Low should have checked CPG's contract before deciding to sign on FMSS, as it was what a "responsible town councillor" would have done.

Mr Low agreed, and said he himself did not look at the contract, but he could not assume that others also did not, including then AHTC chairman Sylvia Lim.

Mr Singh also asked about why FMSS' managing agent fees were structured in a way to include a $1.1 million annual cost for employing all the existing staff of Hougang Town Council.

Mr Low said the negotiations had been left to Ms Lim, and he was not privy to the information.

Mr Singh responded to Mr Low, who was on the stand for the second day in a row: "And that might shorten your cross-examination."





Low Thia Khiang prioritised Hougang staff and WP supporters over residents, says lawyer Davinder Singh
Low Thia Khiang disputes his action was at the expense of his residents
By Rachel Au-Yong, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 18 Oct 2018

It was of "overriding importance" to former Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang that staff at his old constituency kept their jobs, even if another managing agent that was "cheaper and more experienced" threw in a bid.

By prioritising the job security of these Hougang Town Council staff - many of whom were WP supporters - Mr Low had "locked" Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) into its managing agent FM Solutions & Services (FMSS), at the expense of his residents.

Senior Counsel Davinder Singh laid out this argument yesterday, which Mr Low disputed.

Mr Singh brought up the point Mr Low raised last week that town councils were political entities and that none of the three managing agent firms around in 2011 would have worked for AHTC.

Among other things, these companies were concerned that working for AHTC would affect their business with other People's Action Party-led wards, Mr Low said.

Thus, he felt he had no choice but to ask his supporters, Ms How Weng Fan and her husband Danny Loh, to set up FMSS.



But yesterday, Mr Singh argued that if FMSS was engaged and led by WP supporters, it would give these companies an "additional reason" not to bid for AHTC's contract in subsequent tenders.

Mr Low disagreed.

Mr Singh said: "Your whole thesis is that this is political, that some (companies) will only serve the PAP and so you had to start your own... (Did you therefore know that) having a tender after the first term would not result in any bids coming from these companies?"

Mr Low replied: "No, this is (on) a commercial basis. Anyone who thinks that it is a good (deal) would tender for it."

Mr Singh said: "You can't have it both ways… Now, AHTC has gone beyond just being a WP town; it has engaged a WP company to provide managing agent services. You would have known that calling a tender for the second year would have resulted in no bids except from the chosen one."

In appointing FMSS as managing agent from the get-go, Mr Singh added, Mr Low had "effectively put AHTC in a position where it was locked into FMSS, going forward".

He contended that AHTC lost its negotiating power when no other company, apart from FMSS, submitted bids for the managing agent tender it called in April 2012.

Mr Low disputed this: "If FMSS wanted something ridiculous, I would revert to direct management."

Mr Singh responded: "You were putting AHTC in a position... where FMSS had been given a gun they could put to AHTC's head."

Mr Low said: "They may have a gun but they don't have the trigger."



Mr Singh then said Mr Low's suggestion of reverting to direct management of AHTC was merely an assertion.

"Because of the path you chose, you put AHTC in a vulnerable position and therefore compromised the interests of the residents," he added.

Later, Mr Singh questioned why Mr Low had allowed FMSS - "a new kid on the block with no experience managing a town of this size" - to charge AHTC the same price that former managing agent CPG Facilities Management commanded.

Mr Low said FMSS was "the best possible option we had at the time".

Mr Singh also made the case that Mr Low and his fellow town councillors did not do what responsible town councillors would have done, in agreeing to FMSS' contract - which made reference to CPG's previous terms - without ever reading the original contract.

He said: "A responsible town council with responsible town councillors must ask themselves which part of that CPG contract is now applicable and which part is not applicable. It's very basic... and you didn't ask that question."

Mr Low said: "Yes, I didn't ask."

Mr Singh said: "As far as you know, none of the elected MPs asked that question. So it follows that none of you conducted yourself responsibly."

Mr Low replied: "Yes, specifically we didn't."





AHTC Trial DAY 8: 16 Oct 2018

Workers' Party Low Thia Khiang concedes he didn’t check existing managing agent, CPG's contract
That would have been the 'responsible' thing to do, he accepts in reply to lawyer's question
By Adrian Lim, Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 17 Oct 2018

If a managing agent wanted to terminate its contract with a town council, a "responsible town councillor" would check on its contractual obligations and not simply release the firm.

This was what former Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang failed to do in 2011, and he jumped at the chance to fulfil his plan to appoint a new company run by his supporters, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh said yesterday.



Mr Singh said Mr Low had put his "political supporters ahead of the residents' interests", and he did not check whether Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) would be entitled to any damages when CPG Facilities Management terminated its contract.

"Was it the responsible thing to check if (CPG) was entitled to get out?" Mr Singh asked.

"That was not on my mind," replied Mr Low, who is one of eight parties being sued for an alleged breach of fiduciary duties in running the town council.

Said Mr Singh: "I'm asking you now. Was it the responsible thing to do?"

"Yes," Mr Low said.

"Thank you," Mr Singh said. "And you didn't do that, yes?"

"Yes," Mr Low acknowledged.



When Mr Singh suggested that the lack of checks gave Mr Low the opportunity to bring in FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) as the new managing agent, Mr Low disagreed and said that was Mr Singh's "own story".

Mr Low said that at the time, it was "uppermost" in his mind to protect the interest of his residents.

The eighth day of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit saw sharp exchanges as Mr Singh cross-examined Mr Low before a packed courtroom, with close to 50 people in the public gallery.

Tensions hit a high point during the three-hour session when Mr Singh repeatedly made the point that Mr Low had no intention of extending CPG's contract and wanted to keep his plans under wraps.

This, Mr Singh said, was evident in an e-mail circulated among the WP MPs about a journalist's query on whether AHTC would be taking over various contracts for Aljunied Town Council.

Mr Singh said Mr Low did not want to give an answer to the press, which would expose AHTC to any claims by CPG for terminating the contract.

Mr Low said there was no intention then to extend CPG's contract beyond what was in force.

But it was "mind-boggling", Mr Low said, to assume that the town council would want to have a claim filed against it by CPG. "I'm not that stupid, Mr Singh," Mr Low said.

Mr Singh replied: "You may want to contain your anger and focus on the question."



Yesterday, the lawyer also charged that Mr Low had misused public and residents' monies to fund a start-up - referring to FMSS.

This was because Mr Low wrote in his affidavit that having a new player in the township management market would be good for competition, and would be an attractive alternative option to other opposition candidates.

Mr Low disagreed, saying that he had asked for FMSS to be formed as a contingency measure if CPG pulled out. Having a new player in the market was just a consequence or a positive outcome, and not the intention, he added.

Mr Singh also said Mr Low was "reckless" by "merrily" allowing FMSS to charge the town council rates set by CPG.

He added that Mr Low ought to have considered the "dollars and cents" more carefully, because they did not belong to him.

Mr Low denied this, and said he was not aware of what cost structures CPG or FMSS had. "Whether they are going to make a profit or not, I don't know," he said.



Mr Singh also said that Mr Low had "misled" CPG into thinking that AHTC would be run in-house, to avoid calling a tender for a new managing agent.

This was seen in a May 13, 2011 letter which was sent by Hougang Town Council (HTC) to Aljunied Town Council, which Mr Singh said "was deliberately designed to give the CPG the impression that the elected MPs had decided to manage AHTC in-house as you did previously for HTC".

That was how "calculated" Mr Low's plans were, Mr Singh said.

"That's your own calculation, not mine," Mr Low replied.

Mr Singh later pointed out that Mr Low was approached by two other companies that expressed interest in providing managing agent services around May 2011.

He said these two companies were in the same position as FMSS, in terms of not having staff or experience managing a township of that size.

He added that Mr Low did not do his due diligence on the two companies, and had rejected them "because FMSS was a done deal and it was going to be FMSS regardless".

Mr Low replied that he needed to make an assessment before he spoke to the other MPs.

"What you did is you found a way to get rid of them so that nothing could threaten your plan to have FMSS in place," said Mr Singh.












Workers' Party decided to have new managing agent just days after GE 2011, says Davinder Singh
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 17 Oct 2018

The Workers' Party (WP) plan to hire a new managing agent for its town council in 2011 was not devised as a contingency against the withdrawal of its existing agent, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh said yesterday.

Instead, the WP MPs had decided to appoint a new managing agent within three days of winning Aljunied GRC - even before the GRC's agent CPG Facilities Management had told them on May 30 that it wanted to pull out of its contract.

Mr Singh made the point when cross-examining former WP chief Low Thia Khiang on the eighth day of a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit involving three WP MPs.

He said: "I suggest to you, Sir, that on the morning of the first working day after the election, you had sealed CPG's fate."

"You had decided to... appoint a company in which (then secretary of Hougang Town Council How Weng Fan) would be involved as the managing agent," Mr Singh added, referencing an e-mail that Mr Low sent to his party's newly-elected MPs.

This was despite CPG's experience and Mr Low not having read the terms of its contract, said Mr Singh, who argued that in doing so, the WP MPs compromised residents' interests.

Mr Low disagreed on every count, saying repeatedly: "That is not true."



The sequence of events from 2011 that emerged from the cross-examination was as follows:

• May 7: WP wins Aljunied GRC in the general election.

• May 9: WP MPs meet to discuss what Mr Low Thia Khiang says was a contingency plan should CPG pull out of running the town council. But Mr Davinder Singh suggests it was in preparation for the setting up of FMSS.

• May 12: Application made to register the FMSS company name.

• May 13: Ms How Weng Fan sends letter to CPG on taking over management of Aljunied Town Council. Mr Singh suggests it was clear Hougang Town Council will take over management of Aljunied GRC, but Mr Low says it refers to WP taking over the GRC from the PAP.

• May 30: CPG informs WP it wants to pull out of contract.

During the cross-examination, Mr Low, when asked if any of the "highly educated" members of his team referred to the plan as a contingency in their e-mail replies, said there was no such reply.

He added that on May 9, no decision had been made to replace CPG and appoint another agent.

Mr Singh said Ms How's husband Danny Loh had, on May 12, 2011, applied to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority to register FMSS' company name.

Logically, Mr Singh said, this meant Mr Low and Ms How had discussed setting up the company before that date. Yet, nothing was done to inform CPG there would be a new managing agent.

Mr Low replied there was no decision made at the time to replace CPG and, if the MPs had made such a decision, CPG would have to be told. He also said CPG had wanted out and asked for mutual release. When it was released, the town councillors appointed a new agent.

But Mr Singh noted that a letter which was sent by Ms How to CPG on May 13 - 17 days before CPG said it would pull out - gave a different impression.

Written with the letterhead of Hougang Town Council, she said "we" had been instructed by the MPs to arrange to take over the town council management.

Mr Low replied that this referred to the WP taking over from the People's Action Party (PAP).

Mr Singh said the letter was deliberately designed to give CPG the impression that the MPs had decided to manage AHTC in-house. It was a "calculated" move to avoid calling a tender and risking that another agent other than FMSS would get the job, he added.

Mr Low disagreed that this was the intent, saying it was a contingency, and later adding that it anticipated CPG's pullout.

Mr Low, WP chairman Sylvia Lim and current chief Pritam Singh are among eight defendants sued by Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) over alleged losses suffered when Punggol East was run by the opposition town council.

Mr Singh represents PRPTC, which in 2016 appointed audit firm PwC to review past payments made by Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) relating to Punggol East, which the WP took charge of after a 2013 by-election. The PAP won it back in the 2015 polls.

The other defendants include AHTC's former managing agent FMSS and its main owners, Ms How and the late Mr Loh.

Earlier in the day, Mr Singh said residents would expect their town councillors to watch their money, act lawfully and manage the transition well, and not cut off an experienced firm without proper due diligence and consideration.

"But none of that mattered... You have come to this court to talk about politics, but instead what you were doing was putting politics above the residents," he added.









Testy showdown between Low Thia Khiang and Davinder Singh over language use
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 17 Oct 2018

From spelling out certain words to giving the definition of others, yesterday's trial saw Senior Counsel Davinder Singh and former Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang taking digs at each other in the course of a three-hour hearing.

The eighth day of the multi-million-dollar civil lawsuit opened with the question of whether Mr Low's command of English was strong enough that he could do without an interpreter.

Defence lawyer Chelva Rajah had asked for an interpreter, in case his Chinese-educated client felt that answering in Mandarin would better capture the nuances of his thoughts.

But Mr Singh, who is representing Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), objected to the request. He pointed to Mr Low's written testimony, and said it showed the MP "has a very strong command of the English language".

Mr Low is one of three Workers' Party MPs, and eight defendants in total, in the trial to recover alleged losses suffered by Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and PRPTC under his party's watch.



Mr Singh went on to charge that any translations would eat into the time he was given to cross-examine Mr Low. Not only that, "it would appear that Mr Low is seeking to reserve to himself more time to think about the questions, by having things translated to him before he gives his answers", he said.

Responding, Senior Counsel Rajah said there was "no need for that kind of rash and unfounded allegations", adding it was his suggestion that Mr Low have an interpreter.

Justice Kannan Ramesh said he expected Mr Low to give most of his answers in English, and should he need an interpreter, he would have to explain why. "Given the nature of the content of his (affidavit)... those instances should be fairly rare."

Mr Low did not require the services of his translator for yesterday's hearing, which unfolded into a testy showdown between the veteran politician and Mr Singh, a top litigator.

At one point, Mr Singh was questioning Mr Low about the software he would need to manage AHTC.

"But... if you were going to continue to use your in-house software for a larger constituency, it would need to be upgraded," said Mr Singh.

"Upscaled," Mr Low interjected.

Mr Singh retorted: "Thank you for correcting my English."

"Thank you, Mr Singh, for giving me a higher grade of English than Mr Lee Kuan Yew," replied Mr Low, to laughter from the packed gallery.

Mr Low did not specify what he was referring to, but in the 2006 General Election, the founding prime minister said Mr Low could not have written an apology letter by then WP candidate James Gomez because it was drafted in tight legal language and Mr Low's English was not good enough.

At another point during the cross-examination, Mr Singh spelt out the word "sources" letter by letter when Mr Low did not seem to understand his question about where a town council gets its money from.

Mr Singh also had to explain what "a herculean task" - a difficult job - meant, when he used the phrase in questioning.

Mr Singh also brought up grammatical tenses when he pointed to an e-mail Mr Low sent on May 9 2011, two days after the WP won Aljunied GRC. He noted Mr Low used the phrase "we will be appointing a (managing agent) instead of self-management". Aljunied Town Council was still being managed by CPG Facilities Management at that time.

Mr Singh sought to make the point that Mr Low and his fellow MPs had already decided to terminate the contract with CPG and appoint FM Solutions & Services in advance, which Mr Low disputed.

Mr Singh said: "Whether one is good at English or not... you wouldn't say something is to be done (if it was already the case) - it is done."

He referenced Mr Low's use of the phrase "we will appoint" to drive home his message.








AHTC Trial DAY 7: 15 Oct 2018

Defence lawyer says PwC report is prejudiced
PwC contests claim that report went beyond its remit and failed to consider certain issues
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 16 Oct 2018

A report by audit firm PwC looking into past payments made by the Workers' Party (WP)-led town council was "prejudiced" and cannot be "regarded as an independent opinion of a fair-minded accountant", defence lawyer Leslie Netto has said.

In his cross-examination of PwC partner Goh Thien Phong, Mr Netto, who represents Aljunied-Hougang Town Council's (AHTC) former managing agent FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) and its majority owners How Weng Fan and her late husband Danny Loh, suggested that the 2017 PwC report went beyond its remit and contained generalisations.

Mr Goh contested them, saying his firm based its report on available evidence.

In drawing its conclusions, the report also failed to consider issues such as the nature of town councils and how this relates to politics, Mr Netto said yesterday, the seventh day of the multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit involving three WP MPs.



Mr Goh disagreed, saying his firm did consider the issues.

Among other matters, the PwC report said FMSS' fee structure appeared to have an element of "double charging", and that the 2011 appointment of FMSS as AHTC's managing agent for a year without tender may have had a bearing on the award of a subsequent contract when a tender was called.

PwC was appointed by Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council to review past payments by AHTC in relation to Punggol East, after the People's Action Party took back the constituency in the 2015 election.

Asked why PwC went into the issue of higher fees and "unjustified payments" in its report when this was covered by KPMG in an earlier one on AHTC's books, Mr Goh said PwC's report had clearly referenced KPMG's findings.

Mr Netto then asked where in the KPMG report did it say the payments constituted double-counting. Mr Goh said PwC arrived at the conclusion based on its own judgment.

Mr Netto also put to him that the PwC report was speculative in claiming the initial appointment of FMSS gave the company an edge in the subsequent tender.

Mr Goh replied that other service providers had approached the town councillors but were rejected, and with the tender waived initially, people may have had the impression that it was not worthwhile putting in any tender.

"These are not borne out by facts because they did not submit the tender," Mr Netto countered.



The defence lawyer argued that PwC's report also should have, and had failed, to consider six other issues - hence, showing "prejudice".

First, it should have considered how more time is needed to call for tenders when an opposition party takes over a GRC.

Second, the former managing agent CPG Facilities Management was unwilling to continue serving under the WP, and it was not in the interest of residents for the WP to keep an unwilling agent.

Third, the withdrawal of Action Information Management left the town council in a serious predicament without its computer system.

Fourth, there are only three key players with experience running town councils - CPG, EM Services and Cushman & Wakefield.

Fifth, none of them made a bid for the town council and, finally, there was "sufficient oversight" of FMSS by the town councillors.

Responding to each point, Mr Goh said he considered them before forming his judgments.

While waiving a tender is justifiable when the situation is urgent and in the public's interest, the town council had two to three months to call the tender, he said.

He added that CPG had expressed its desire to be discharged but it was done after FMSS was promised a one-year contract, and it is the managing agent's duty to provide a computing system.



Mr Goh questioned how it could be known that no one was prepared to tender, when no tender was called initially.

He also said there was no need to seek the views of the defendants, including Ms How, as his report referred to KPMG's findings, and feedback she gave to KPMG would have been addressed in its report.

On whether considering Ms How's perspective would have changed things, Mr Goh said it would not. "That is because you are prejudiced," Mr Netto retorted.

The hearing resumes today, and former WP chief Low Thia Khiang will take the stand.






AHTC Trial DAY 6: 12 Oct 2018

AHTC trial: PAP town councils enjoy economies of scale, says defence
Lawyer noted that AHTC's managing agent cost more as WP ran just one town council
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 13 Oct 2018

Town council management fees in People's Action Party (PAP) wards were lower because they could enjoy economies of scale, said Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah.

But unlike the PAP, which had 15 town councils under its belt, the Workers' Party (WP) had only one: Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC).

For this reason, AHTC's managing agent, FM Solutions & Services, cost more than if the town council had stuck with CPG Facilities Management, Mr Rajah said yesterday.

He made the point when he was cross-examining PwC partner Goh Thien Phong, whose firm looked into the financial management of Punggol East by AHTC.

The town council had taken over the running of Punggol East constituency after the 2013 by-election, and was subsequently reconstituted as AHPETC.

But after the PAP took back the single-seat constituency at the 2015 General Election, the town council reverted to its old name.

The Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council, which oversees Punggol East now, is suing eight defendants - including three WP MPs and two town councillors - over alleged losses suffered when the constituency was run by AHPETC.

Yesterday, the sixth day of a multimillion-dollar civil suit, Mr Rajah cited a May 2013 parliamentary statement made by Dr Teo Ho Pin, the coordinating MP for PAP town councils.

Mr Rajah noted that PAP town councils could call for joint tenders and reduce costs for residents.

Running an opposition town council does not have the advantages of these economies of scale, he suggested.

Mr Goh said AHTC could have chosen a managing agent that worked with the PAP town councils to enjoy similar rates.

Mr Rajah said simply: "For the lion to lie down with the lamb."



Earlier in his cross-examination, he took issue with PwC's finding that the town council racked up $400,000 in extra fees in calling a tender for a new conservancy and cleaning provider.

The incumbent provider, Titan Facilities Management, was chosen but, in the new contract, the cleaning rate per dwelling unit rose from $6.30 to $10.55.

But the auditor, in calculating the difference, had failed to take into account the number of parking spaces, Mr Rajah noted.

Mr Goh said none of the documents he had stated the correct number of units. Even factoring in Mr Rajah's estimated number of spaces, the new contract was still more expensive, he added.

To this, Mr Rajah said: "One of the less happy aspects of modern life is that the cost of living does not observe the laws of gravity."

Another area of disagreement was whether AHTC was justified in waiving the tender for a new managing agent.

Mr Goh said: "I don't see any reason why (AHTC) should get waivers because there was nothing urgent." He added that the town council had about two to three months to call for the tender.



Mr Rajah said that if Mr Goh "had approached this investigation with an open mind, you would have given far more attention to the plight in which the newly elected MPs of AHTC found themselves soon after the results of the 2011 General Election".

But Mr Goh countered that his audit did not "consider any emotional factor" as his role was to determine if Town Council Financial Rules had been breached.

One issue brought up repeatedly at the trial is whether AHTC should have agreed to CPG's request to terminate its contract before it was up.

Mr Rajah asked him if he was aware that CPG would not have been able to run the town council once the PAP-owned software company, Action Information Management, removed its computer system.

Mr Goh said: "That is CPG's problem. They may have to find another service provider for the computer system, but the fact remains they have a contract to fulfil."









Town council had reasons for choosing higher-priced contractors, says defence lawyer
Counsel, witness debate issue of contracts
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 13 Oct 2018

In 2015, the town council run by the Workers' Party (WP) chose to include Punggol East in an existing contract it had with the firm Red-Power after the single-seat constituency's contract with another vendor expired.

Audit firm PwC later pointed out that the former Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) could have saved nearly $26,000 for a year if it selected Tong Lee Engineering Works to do booster pump, refuse chute and roller-shutter maintenance.

Yesterday, defence lawyer Chelva Rajah said Tong Lee verbally told AHPETC it did not have sufficient resources to take on Punggol East, and that this was reflected in a note by an AHPETC staff member which was attached to an e-mail.

The town council's tenders and contracts committee later decided to terminate Tong Lee's services because it was not up to standard, the Senior Counsel said on Day 6 of the multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit involving three WP MPs. In citing this example, Mr Rajah sought to illustrate that AHPETC had reasons for choosing higher-priced contractors when running the single-seat Punggol East constituency from 2013 to 2015.



But PwC partner Goh Thien Phong, whose firm looked into the financial management of Punggol East by AHPETC, said these justifications were not captured in the tender evaluation reports. His team was also not provided with supporting documents during its audit.

The Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) in 2016 appointed PwC to review past payments made by Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) in relation to Punggol East, which the People's Action Party wrested back in the 2015 General Election.

PRPTC, which oversees Punggol East, is suing eight defendants - including three WP MPs and two town councillors - over alleged losses suffered when the constituency was run by AHPETC.

As to why AHPETC chose Rentokil over Pest-Pro for its pest control services, Mr Rajah said Rentokil was more familiar with the National Environment Agency's "Rat Attack" programme, and had a more qualified team. In its report, PwC had said that AHPETC could have saved $2,700 in a year by going with Pest-Pro.

These considerations, among others, were captured in the minutes of a meeting the town council had and were provided to a PwC staff member, said Mr Rajah, who is representing the WP MPs and town councillors.



Mr Goh said he accepted there was such an e-mail sent, but the employee in question had left the company.

Separately, Mr Rajah said that then chairman for AHPETC Sylvia Lim and the tender committee had also checked into whether contracts for two incumbent vendors could be extended, but Ms Lim was wrongly advised by her contracts manager that they could not be.

They checked not once, but twice, Mr Rajah said.

Mr Goh said an extension clause is common for most service contracts with town councils. "One will exercise more caution to look at the existing contracts," he said.

Another issue brought up yesterday was why PwC had suggested Punggol East was entitled to a share of any surpluses, even if any alleged improper payments took place before the ward fell under AHTC.

Mr Goh said that if AHTC had indeed depleted any reserves, what Punggol East would have received when it joined the town council would be affected.

Mr Rajah said that was a matter between Punggol East and the town council, and not the town councillors themselves.





AHTC Trial DAY 5: 11 Oct 2018

AHTC withheld $250,000 in fees to FMSS, says auditor
Move showed town council's concern over major accounting lapse by its managing agent
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 12 Oct 2018

The Workers' Party (WP)-led town council was so "obviously concerned" about a major accounting lapse by its managing agent that it withheld $250,000 in fees, a senior KPMG auditor said yesterday.

Managing agent FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) had processed $60 million in payments, mostly for utility bills, through manual journal entries, said KPMG executive director Owen Hawkes.

This highly irregular method, he noted, "effectively bypassed controls" which would have been in place if FMSS had gone through accounts payable instead, representing a "significant control weakness".

"When we discussed this with the (Aljunied-Hougang Town Council), they appeared to be obviously concerned... It was pretty clear at the time they were not happy," he said of the $250,000 in fees which AHTC withheld after KPMG highlighted the problem in its analysis of the books.



The audit firm was tasked to look into AHTC's books after a special audit by the Auditor-General's Office flagged several lapses.

Mr Hawkes was being cross-examined by Mr Leslie Netto, who is defending FMSS and its majority owners How Weng Fan and her late husband Danny Loh.

Yesterday, Mr Netto insisted that AHTC's town councillors, including WP MPs Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim who are also defendants in the suit, were happy with the service provided by FMSS.

"I think we will have to listen to the MPs when they come on the stand. I think you will see they were happy," Mr Netto said on day five of a multimillion-dollar civil suit to recover alleged excess payments to FMSS.

He later said of the withheld fee that there was no such thing as a "perfect contract".

Mr Hawkes replied: "First, I wouldn't say that $250,000 is a minor amount of money. Second, it is the proposition that there was no unhappiness that I am challenging."



Mr Netto also sought to prove that FMSS had delivered on its obligations.

He said multiple reports - such as government-issued town council report cards - showed that under the management of FMSS, AHTC had consistently kept the estate clean and maintained its lifts well.

But Mr Hawkes said his focus was to review the town council's financial governance and controls, not estate cleanliness.

"Having been to Hougang many, many times, it is not my place to suggest it is some sort of Mad Max (dystopia)... It is a perfectly pleasant area of the country. But how the town council manages itself, rather than things like maintenance, is my area of concern," he said.

Mr Netto also took issue with KPMG's judgment of FMSS' accounting problems, noting that the firm had to struggle without a proper computerised management system. This happened after an IT firm, owned by former People's Action Party MPs, withdrew its software after both sides could not agree on terms following the 2011 General Election.

But Mr Hawkes said: "While I accept that implementing a new system is not an easy task, I don't think that five years later, the accounting system should still be in a problematic state."



In wrapping up his arguments, Mr Netto also sought to show that Ms How wanted to be helpful and give KPMG more information and documents for it to piece together its report.

He noted that she sent a letter to Mr Hawkes in October 2016, taking issue with KPMG's draft report on alleged improper payments, and asking for more than the four business days FMSS was given to respond. But she did not receive a response, he added.

When he was later cross-examined by AHTC lawyer David Chan, Mr Hawkes explained that his firm had contacted FMSS in advance, requesting interviews and access to certain documents. This request was not met.

But several discussions with Ms How, such as two that took place over the phone, were factored into the KPMG report, he added.









Defence and witness dispute financial procedures for town councils
WP lawyer, auditor debate financial procedures
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 12 Oct 2018

Procedures were put in place by a Workers' Party (WP)-run town council to ensure there was oversight of payments made to vendors, contrary to allegations that there was a lack of financial control, defence lawyer Chelva Rajah said yesterday.

In the 56 instances in which auditors said there was no proper endorsement of invoices, Senior Counsel Rajah pointed to alternate documents called the Voucher Journal Report, which showed signatures of the appropriate heads of department.

But PwC partner Goh Thien Phong said this would still not fulfil the requirement under the law, and that a consistent policy was necessary, not according "to each individual's whims and fancies".

As spelt out in the Town Council Financial Rules, Mr Goh said the department head - in most cases, the property manager - needs to sign the invoices to satisfy himself that goods and services had been delivered and fees charged correctly, among various responsibilities.

The fifth day of a civil lawsuit involving three WP MPs and two councillors, over an alleged breach of their fiduciary duties, saw Mr Rajah and an auditor going back and forth over financial procedures in a town council.

PwC had been appointed in 2016 by the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), which manages the affairs of single seat Punggol East, to look into the books of the WP-run town council.

PRPTC is suing eight defendants to recover any losses allegedly suffered when the constituency was managed from 2013 to 2015 by WP's Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).



Mr Goh said PwC took a sample of 200 invoices during its audit. Of these, 144 were correctly endorsed, while 56 were not signed by the head of department. There were no written standard operating procedures then, he added.

But according to Aljunied-Hougang Town Council general manager Vincent Koh - whose affidavit was read out by Mr Rajah in court - the town council used the Voucher Journal Report to comply with the law.

Mr Goh said he disagreed as the Voucher Journal Report held a different purpose, which was to be entered into accounting reports.



The PwC audit also found 12 invoices of improper payments - amounting to more than $171,110 - which were without supporting documents.

Six of these included payments that AHPETC made to contractor Propell Integrated in 2015 for the setting up of polling stations for the general election.

For these, Mr Rajah said the Housing Board and the elections office sent their officers down to inspect the works, and e-mails between AHPETC and HDB attest to this.

He also highlighted a claim which AHPETC submitted to HDB and which was reimbursed.

But Mr Goh, during cross-examination, disagreed, saying the e-mails between the parties were only instructions, and the town council paid the contractor without satisfying itself that the work had been done.

Mr Rajah asked: "The general election has come and gone and polling has taken place. That is not evidence that work has been done?"

Mr Goh maintained there was no actual evidence or photographs supporting AHPETC's payment to the contractor.

In other instances of payments where supporting documents were allegedly missing, Mr Rajah suggested this should not be the case as there was a handover between AHTC and PRPTC in late 2015. This was after the People's Action Party wrested the Punggol East seat back in the 2015 General Election.

An e-mail sent by PRPTC's general manager Kwok Wei Kin on Dec 9, 2015, to then AHTC deputy general manager Vincent Koh also thanked Mr Koh and his team for handing the documents over.

Mr Rajah pointed out that since PwC started its audit work on Nov 1, 2016, the documents should have been in PRPTC's possession.










AHTC Trial DAY 4: 10 Oct 2018

Workers' Party MPs kept 'watchful eye' over managing agent, says defence
FMSS not given free rein over payments: WP lawyer
By Rachel Au-Yong, Housing Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Oct 2018

Workers' Party (WP) town councillors followed a set of guidelines to keep a "watchful eye" on their managing agent.

They did not, argued their lawyer Chelva Rajah, give FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) free rein to approve payments to itself, even though the firm's owners How Weng Fan and Danny Loh held key managerial roles in Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC).

This alleged conflict of interest came under scrutiny yesterday, the fourth day of a multimillion-dollar civil suit to recover alleged excess payments made to FMSS. At issue was whether the WP had put in proper controls to manage the alleged conflict of interest.

The Senior Counsel argued that the WP town councillors did, and thus could not be deemed to have made improper payments.

For example, former WP chief Low Thia Khiang had put in place a "standard operating procedure" (SOP) in December 2011 detailing the different issues a town council might face, such as estate feedback or personnel matters, the relevant person these should be brought up to, and how they would be resolved.

But KPMG executive director Owen Hawkes, who was being cross-examined, said the SOP appeared to be little more than a communications proposal.

While issues pertaining to estate management appeared to be more detailed, Mr Hawkes argued that the SOP or what he called communications proposal for administrative or policy matters did not "seem to be very fully thought out".

"(Mr Low's SOP) is not really an SOP - it is just decisions made by the town council and communicated by the chairman for adoption," he said.

How these issues were handled, he added, was among his key concerns when his firm was tasked to look into AHTC's books after the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) found significant governance lapses in a special audit.



Mr Rajah also sought to establish, referencing various e-mails, that the WP town councillors had indeed checked all the expenses they were signing off on, and had not approved them blindly.

He pointed out, among other things, that then AHTC chairman Sylvia Lim had highlighted FMSS' proposal to spend $11 million on lift maintenance and repairs, noting that the town council "could not afford" to spend that amount yearly.

But, Mr Hawkes said, she was merely turning down items that were not applicable, adding that the correspondence took place in June 2015, after the AGO report was out.

"So, maybe there is more sensitivity to the issue at this point," he said.

Mr Rajah also took issue with KPMG's suggestion that AHTC resolves its conflict of interest issue by getting an independent member of the town council to approve payments at each stage.

This was not practical as it would require a lot of time, he added.

Mr Hawkes replied: "It would be additional work, I agree. But additional conflicts require additional controls... Otherwise, you are effectively having your cake and eating it."

Mr Rajah said the previous town council, which was led by the People's Action Party, handled conflicts in a similar way. At the same time, Ms How and Mr Loh were known to WP town councillors for many years, and they considered the couple reliable and trustworthy.

Mr Hawkes retorted: "Trust is not a control - it is the enemy of control."

In wrapping up his cross-examination, Mr Rajah noted that of the $33 million paid to FMSS and deemed to be in contention, $1.5 million was deemed by KPMG to be improper. Also, an extra $2.8 million was paid to architects who were the costlier choice over another.

But of this total sum of $4.3 million, just over $600,000 was labelled by KPMG as "ought to be recovered". The rest could not be determined.

Even then, Mr Rajah said his clients disagreed with how most of these judgments were made. The total sum that ought to be recovered would in fact be closer to under $30,000, he added.

Besides Mr Low and Ms Lim, the other defendants in the case are WP chief Pritam Singh, town councillors Kenneth Foo and Chua Zhi Hon, FMSS and its owners, Ms How and her late husband Mr Loh, who is being represented by his wife.

The case continues today.







Incumbent agent would have cost more, says defence
By Adrian Lim, Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Oct 2018

An alternative calculation of how much an incumbent managing agent would have charged Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) compared with hiring a new one was put forth by defence lawyer Leslie Netto yesterday.

Defending AHTC's choice of FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) over CPG Facilities Management in 2011, Mr Netto argued that CPG would have cost more as several items - including the provision of lift rescue services in the day and support for an IT system - were absent in earlier estimates.

If these had been factored in, CPG would have charged close to $5.6 million compared with FMSS' $5.4 million for a year, said Mr Netto, who is representing FMSS and its owners - the late Mr Danny Loh and his wife How Weng Fan.

They are among eight defendants in a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit over alleged improper payments the Workers' Party-run AHTC made to FMSS and its service provider from 2011 to 2015. The suit was initiated by AHTC under the direction of an independent panel.



AHTC's lawyer David Chan said last week that two of the defendants had advanced the interests of their supporters over those of residents when appointing FMSS.

The duo are the Workers' Party's (WP) former chief Low Thia Khiang and its chairman Sylvia Lim.

Mr Chan said based on calculations that KPMG did in 2016, FMSS had cost AHTC an extra sum of more than $515,770.

Mr Netto refuted this yesterday when cross-examining KPMG executive director Owen Hawkes.

Mr Netto said items such as the annual cost of $451,200 for IT services for a town council management system and $17,820 for the provision of lift rescue services during office hours were left out in the calculation of CPG's fee.

These would have been provided by FMSS at no extra charge.

Mr Hawkes said that while the defendants were shown the calculations made in 2016, the items were not brought to the auditors' attention then.

Mr Netto noted that the FMSS contract also included taking over all the staff of WP-run Hougang Town Council in its merger with Aljunied Town Council. This cost $1.1 million for a year.

In comparison, KPMG calculated the additional costs of CPG taking over Hougang division at $687,660, based only on the number of units in the constituency, he said.

If CPG had taken over, it might have retrenched the Hougang Town Council staff - an outcome the WP MPs did not want to see happen, he said.

Mr Hawkes replied that while there was the possibility of job losses, which was "regrettable", KPMG's calculation was a cost calculation, not a social one.

Mr Netto also argued that signatures made by "conflicted persons" on payment vouchers - which auditors had taken issue with - were not approvals but endorsements to show the numbers were checked.

Any payment from AHTC to FMSS would have to be approved by Ms Lim, he said.





Counsel highlights views of Khaw and MND
By Rachel Au-Yong, Housing Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Oct 2018

The Ministry of National Development (MND) and its then minister Khaw Boon Wan "did not have any difficulty" in accepting the Workers' Party-led town council's decision in 2011 to waive the tender process for a new managing agent.

And yet, KPMG found that the WP had failed to justify the waiver of tender in appointing FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) to run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC).

In pointing this out yesterday, Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, who is defending five WP town councillors in a multimillion-dollar civil suit, questioned why the auditor had not considered the views of MND and Mr Khaw when compiling its October 2016 report.

KPMG was tasked to look into AHTC's books after the Auditor-General's Office found significant governance lapses in a special audit. KPMG's 2016 report said the contract AHTC signed with FMSS was done "improperly".



But Mr Rajah said AHTC was justified in awarding the managing agent contract to FMSS without calling a tender, as it did so to ensure an uninterrupted flow of services for its residents.

He cited then Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan, who at a parliamentary debate in May 2013 spoke about how the Town Council Financial Rules (TCFR) "provide latitude" to town councils to waive the requirement for a tender.

Mr Khaw, who noted that then-AHTC chairman Sylvia Lim had done so, said: "MND left the appointment to her best judgment and did not object. We have to apply the Town Councils Act and the TCFR fairly, evenly and consistently."

Presenting his argument, Mr Rajah said: "So, it would appear that as far as Mr Khaw was concerned, he didn't have too much difficulty with the fact that a waiver had been given as far as the first managing agent contract agreement was concerned."

"Do you accept that?" he asked KPMG executive director Owen Hawkes.

"You are correct," Mr Hawkes replied. "Well, it says that MND left the appointment to the 'best judgment'."

Mr Rajah also highlighted a 2013 report by MND which noted that the appointment of FMSS by AHTC "allowed AHTC to ensure continuity of service to residents", and that "there was no compromise of services".

He asked Mr Hawkes if he had bothered to check with how the MND arrived at its conclusions.

Mr Hawkes said there was no need to as KPMG's job was to look at the exact circumstances of the waiver and whether it was done in accordance with TCFR.



Mr Rajah then said: "Although you were aware of MND's view and of minister's view as expressed in his statement to Parliament, neither had any difficulty in accepting that waiver was properly called for and exercised, you saw it fit to nevertheless state in your report that the circumstances as recorded in contemporaneous documentation did not justify the waiver of tender."

Mr Hawkes said yes, and added he did not know if MND or Mr Khaw had reviewed documentation on the waiver then. "I don't think the phrase 'didn't bother' is appropriate. The fact is it was not appropriate to check," he said.





AHTC Trial DAY 3: 9 Oct 2018

Spotlight on 'improper payments' and whether they must be recovered
Most were not improper and even if they were, they were for services used, says WP lawyer
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 10 Oct 2018

The bulk of the $1.5 million in payments made by a Workers' Party-led town council to its managing agent were not improper, and should not be recovered even if they were because they were for services the town council used.

This argument was laid out yesterday by Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, the lawyer defending five WP town councillors in a multimillion-dollar civil suit over an alleged breach of fiduciary duties.

On the second day of cross-examination, Mr Rajah pressed KPMG executive director Owen Hawkes on why he had classified almost $200,000 in payments to managing agent FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) and its related service provider, FM Solutions and Integrated Services (FMSI), as "unsupported by certifications of services received or contracts".

KPMG was appointed to look into Aljunied-Hougang Town Council's (AHTC) books after the Auditor-General's Office found significant governance lapses in a special audit.


Mr Rajah argued that some of these funds were paid out because FMSI had existing contracts with Hougang Town Council, which were naturally carried over to the new AHTC after the merger with Aljunied Town Council following the 2011 General Election.

Also, many of these payments were for services that had actually been rendered, such as those for emergency maintenance.

But Mr Hawkes said there was no documentation showing that these services were carried out satisfactorily. Neither was there any contract to define what "satisfactory service" would look like.

Mr Rajah said the town council's call logs were proof that cases were heard and responded to.

Mr Hawkes replied: "It is a call log, and I don't know what is your experience with call logs, but they are not 100 per cent with (seeing a case through)."

Later, Mr Rajah sought to determine if Mr Hawkes thought the payments should be recovered if services were provided satisfactorily.

Mr Hawkes said the documentation to prove that the services were carried out well was not there.

"I have never said this is a wrongful payment. The language is 'improper payment', made in breach of the Town Council Financial Rules... We don't say if it should be recovered or not recovered," he said.

Mr Rajah also took issue with KPMG classifying $80,000 in payments to FMSS as a breach of financial authority, as they were made without the co-signature of either the chairman or vice-chairman of the town council.

Mr Hawkes said those payments had breached standing instructions put in place by the town council to avoid a conflict of interest.

But after FMSS ceased to be the managing agent, there was no need for such co-signatures, said the town council.

Mr Hawkes said that while this did not violate town council financial rules, it went against the own standards AHTC had set for itself, and was thus improper.

Asked multiple times by Mr Rajah if he thought this money should be recovered, Mr Hawkes finally said: "It is not a yes or no.

"We are not saying that every amount in our table is to be recovered, that is why part of the table says (the amount is) indeterminable."

In total, KPMG identified more than $1.5 million in payments as improper in its October 2016 report. Just over $600,000, it said, should be recovered. It could not determine if the remaining amount ought to be recovered.



Yesterday's cross-examination was a continuation of Monday's, when Mr Rajah homed in on KPMG's argument that FMSS received more than $1.2 million in extra payments, via a 3.5 per cent management fee levied on projects totalling more than $34 million.

The auditor believed that many of the projects were basic services, to be covered by a lump-sum fee.

But Mr Rajah had argued that such practices were also carried out by the town council's PAP predecessor. Also, the works were clearly complex, given their bill size.

Another issue raised yesterday was about a potential conflict of interest, given that FMSS majority shareholders How Weng Fan and Danny Loh were also general manager and secretary of AHTC.

Mr Rajah sought to establish that the previous general manager, Mr Jeffrey Chua of CPG Facilities Management, was also a shareholder of Downer EDI Limited - the main shareholding company of CPG.

The case continues today.









Defence disputes claim that AHTC spent more by engaging new agent
Invoice of over $106,000 paid to FMSS not improper, says defence
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 10 Oct 2018

The allegation that the Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) spent more by engaging a new managing agent in 2011, instead of retaining its existing one, was challenged in the High Court yesterday.

Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah argued that the assumption behind this claim - made by KPMG auditors in 2016 - was that the incumbent agent of Aljunied Town Council, CPG Facilities Management, would be willing to take on the running of Hougang constituency as well.

CPG was not bound to do so, said Mr Rajah, who is defending three WP MPs and two town councillors in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit over an alleged breach of fiduciary duties.

The civil case centres on $33.7 million in payments that AHTC made from 2011 to 2015 to FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) and its service provider, which are alleged to be improper and void.

The appointment of FMSS in July 2011 came after the Workers' Party (WP) won Aljunied GRC in the May 2011 elections and planned to merge the running of the two town councils, with a single agent in charge.



A report published by KPMG in October 2016 noted that AHTC's appointment of FMSS, instead of keeping CPG, resulted in additional costs of over $515,700. This was for AHTC's first managing agent contract, which the town council had decided to waive a tender for.

But Mr Rajah said that CPG, which had been appointed by the People's Action Party-run Aljunied Town Council, would have been an "unwilling horse".

Mr Rajah said that based on CPG's contract with the town council, a variation of more than 10 per cent in fees would require both parties to reach a mutual agreement, for CPG to take in Hougang division.

Based on KPMG's estimations, CPG would have charged AHTC an additional $687,660 on top of the managing agent fee of $4,225,170, or 16 per cent more.

For this reason, it was not possible for WP chairman Sylvia Lim to instruct CPG to take on Hougang constituency, Mr Rajah said.

But KPMG executive director Owen Hawkes, who was being cross-examined by Mr Rajah, disagreed. Based on his understanding, Mr Hawkes said, CPG was contractually obliged to absorb Hougang Town Council if directed to, and AHTC could have retained it for a year while calling a tender for a new managing agent.



Earlier yesterday, Mr Rajah also argued that an invoice of more than $106,000 paid to FMSS was not improper.

Part of it went to reimburse salaries for Hougang Town Council staff for the first two weeks of June 2011, he disclosed.

The KPMG team had in 2016 pointed out that the letter of intent from FMSS said only that it would take over the salaries and appointment of Hougang Town Council's staff from June 15, 2011.

Mr Rajah's disclosure that FMSS was claiming for salaries for the entire month of June 2011 drew swift objections from Mr David Chan, who is representing AHTC, and Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, who is representing Pasir-Ris Punggol Town Council.

They said that this fact should have been included in the pleadings, with the related documents disclosed. Mr Singh asked who gave FMSS the authority to make the salary payments, adding that there was "a complete lack of control and systems of checks and balances". Justice Kannan Ramesh agreed that the new information should be put into the pleadings, and Mr Rajah said that he would amend them.









$2.8 million in extra payments to architect was justified, says WP lawyer
By Rachel Au-Yong and Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 10 Oct 2018

Seven out of 10 times, Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) picked the more expensive architect - LST Architects - for various works in the town council, costing it $2.8 million in extra payments.

But there was a justifiable reason for the decision, Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah suggested yesterday, the third day of a multimillion-dollar civil suit against five AHTC town councillors, including three Workers' Party MPs.

Mr Rajah argued that Design Metabolist (DM) - which KPMG said in its audit report was the cheaper option - had previously negotiated for a higher fee over the rate it agreed in principle with the town council.

In 2010, while Aljunied Town Council was under the purview of the People's Action Party, DM had doubled its fees for a Eunos Spring Neighbourhood Renewal Programme from the initially agreed amount.

The WP took charge of the town council after it won Aljunied GRC in the 2011 General Election.



Mr Rajah, in cross-examining KPMG executive director Owen Hawkes yesterday, also argued that it was not fair to arrive at the $2.8 million sum - which is part of the civil suits to recover allegedly excess payouts from eight defendants, including WP chairman Sylvia Lim and party leader Pritam Singh.

"It may well be that (DM) may not be prepared to take on the jobs unless they were paid a higher fee," said Mr Rajah.

Mr Hawkes replied: "It is possible, but you would have to ask them. The contract that we have does state a fixed fee."

The two men were locked in a back-and-forth exchange for a while before Justice Kannan Ramesh stepped in. He said, among other things, that the circumstances of the 2010 transaction - which resulted in a higher fee - are not known.

"That is something that needs to be asserted - you can't run it if it is not in your pleadings," Justice Ramesh added.

Earlier, Mr Rajah argued that while a town council was obliged under the Town Councils Financial Rules (TCFR) to always pick the cheaper option, it was allowed to choose a more expensive one if it could justify the decision.

LST Architects was deemed to be more efficient than DM, he said.

Through a tender, AHTC picked and placed both firms on a panel. AHTC could appoint either one for projects, without a separate tender process.

But Mr Hawkes said his firm held the view that it breached the TCFR. Mr Rajah said it was a common practice among many town councils, which Mr Hawkes accepted.





AHTC Trial DAY 2: 8 Oct 2018

Defence explains why Workers' Party decided to drop old town council managing agent
He argues that past actions showed PAP tried to make things difficult for opposition
By Rachel Au-Yong, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 9 Oct 2018

The Workers' Party (WP) terminated the contract of a managing agent appointed by the People's Action Party (PAP) early because the ruling party had a track record of making "things difficult for opposition town councils", Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah said yesterday.

The lawyer is representing three WP MPs, including former WP chief Low Thia Khiang and chairman Sylvia Lim, and two town councillors in a multimillion-dollar court case.

In the first half of the civil trial yesterday, he sought to explain why CPG Facilities Management was dropped shortly after the opposition party won Aljunied GRC in the 2011 General Election, even though it had two years left on its contract.

Citing Mr Low's affidavit, Mr Rajah said the former WP chief had faced several challenges when he became Hougang MP in 1991, such as having to secure a new office at short notice.

In the mid-1990s, the Housing Board also terminated its Essential Maintenance Service Unit contract and computer services for Hougang Town Council, and Mr Low had to find alternatives.

Coupled with the PAP-owned software company Action Information Management's termination of their contract shortly after his party won Aljunied GRC in 2011, Mr Low was determined to ensure that residents continue to enjoy a smooth flow of services.

"You know what they say about an unwilling horse. Don't ride it," Mr Rajah said in his cross-examination of auditor KPMG's executive director Owen Hawkes.

Mr Hawkes replied that unlike horses, corporate entities like CPG have legal obligations to fulfil.

His firm was appointed to look into Aljunied-Hougang Town Council's books after the Auditor-General's Office found significant governance lapses in a special audit.


In explaining why the WP had to hire a managing agent to handle the town council's affairs, Mr Rajah said directly managing a town council would take up much of an MP's time. This, he added, is "not only tiring and stressful but also harder for an MP to play a more active role in serving his residents through grassroots work".

But he also pointed out that none of the only three managing agents in the relatively niche field of township management - CPG, EM Services and Cushman & Wakefield - put in a bid to manage the WP town council in 2012. He said that all of them ran at least one PAP town council.

Mr Rajah asked Mr Hawkes if it was likely that these firms did not put in a tender for a town council because it was now run by an opposition party. Mr Hawkes said it was possible, but he noted that in his own capacity, he has worked for many firms which are competitors.

"Most firms typically do not begrudge that happening," he said.













$1.2 million in project fees was for ad hoc, large-scale projects and not 'improper' payments
Counsel for WP says payments under scrutiny also made by past town council
By Rachel Au-Yong and Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 9 Oct 2018

The lawyer representing the Workers' Party (WP) yesterday sought to show that payments under scrutiny, made to a managing agent, had also been made by the town council which was previously run by the People's Action Party (PAP).

This was among the reasons Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah laid out yesterday and which he said led to the more than $1.2 million that Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) made to its managing agent, FM Solutions & Services (FMSS), being classified wrongly as "improper".

He was cross-examining KPMG executive director Owen Hawkes in the second half of Day 2 of a multimillion-dollar civil suit over improper payments involving three WP MPs, including former chief Low Thia Khiang.

Mr Rajah is representing five WP town councillors, including the three MPs.

Mr Hawkes' firm was appointed to look into AHTC's books after the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) found significant governance lapses in a special audit.

At issue during yesterday's cross-examination was whether FMSS had received more than $1.2 million in extra payments, through the form of a 3.5 per cent management fee levied on projects totalling more than $34 million.

KPMG believed many of the projects, including the repair and redecoration of Housing Board flats, were basic services which should have been covered by a lump-sum fee.



But Mr Rajah questioned how Mr Hawkes arrived at this conclusion, because he admitted he had never gone down in person to evaluate the complexity of the projects, but relied on the wordings in the contracts.

More importantly, said Mr Rajah, the town council's predecessor, the PAP town council, was also charged similar fees for such works by its managing agent, CPG.

"Not only did the previous town council and managing agent, but also the successive council and managing agent - the four people who dealt with the project on the ground all considered (these) project management services. But you reviewing the project documentation thought otherwise?" he asked.

Mr Hawkes replied: "That is correct, and it wouldn't be the first case (where a client has disagreed with an accountant's definitions)... Our view was that this fell under basic services, at least in part."

At one point during the cross-examination, Mr Rajah also questioned if the auditors had come into the special audit with a pre-conceived view. He asked Mr Hawkes: "What is your approach: Guilty until proven innocent or innocent until proven guilty?"

Mr Hawkes replied that this was a civil case, and hence there was no issue of innocence or guilt.

Mr Rajah also sought to establish that AHTC was warranted in paying these fees, especially as some of the projects were complex enough to cost $8 million each.

Both men were locked in a back-and-forth over whether the total bill size was a fair indicator of the complexity of a project.

Mr Hawkes said the "mere scale" of the project was not sufficient, and that it depended on the "nature of what's being done".

Mr Rajah shot back: "So size means nothing?"

He also quizzed Mr Hawkes on another KPMG finding in its October 2016 report - that AHTC had overpaid FMSS $8,990 for overtime claims and Central Provident Fund contributions, for general overtime and inspections during the Chinese New Year.

KPMG had said these services should have been considered part of the standard management fees payable by the town council, but Mr Rajah argued that the inspections were required during the festive period so that waste could be cleared expeditiously.

He added that the town council was going through an "intensive and rigorous" audit by the AGO then, requiring staff to go "over and above" their duties.

Mr Hawkes countered that there was a distinction to be drawn as to whether FMSS' finance staff should be reimbursed for the extra hours by their employer, and whether FMSS is entitled to recover all the overtime from AHTC.

The question is the degree of the "extensive liaison" with the AGO, he added.

The civil trial continues today.







Payment to FMSS properly approved by WP chairman Sylvia Lim, says defence
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 9 Oct 2018

A system was in place to ensure that the monthly payments Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) made to its managing agent were signed off and approved by Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim.

The town council and its MPs regularly ascertained that its agent, FM Solutions & Services (FMSS), performed the contracted works properly, and Ms Lim herself verified the financial documents before endorsement, lawyer Leslie Netto said yesterday morning.

Starting off the second day of a multimillion-dollar court case involving three WP MPs and two town councillors, Mr Netto said there was no dishonesty on the part of FMSS' shareholders - Ms How Weng Fan and her husband, the late Danny Loh Chong Meng, also the town council's secretary and general manager, respectively.

The lawsuit, initiated by AHTC, under the direction of an independent panel, centres on $33.7 million in payments AHTC made from 2011 to 2015 to FMSS and service provider FM Solutions and Integrated Services (FMSI), which are alleged to be improper and void.

Ms Lim and then WP chief Low Thia Khiang have been asked to account for the money and to repay any sums paid out wrongfully.



Mr Netto, who is representing Ms How and FMSS, said allegations suggesting that AHTC paid a higher fee because it engaged new managing agent FMSS in July 2011, after winning Aljunied GRC in the May election, are "preposterous". Ms How is also representing her late husband.

Mr Netto said the previous vendor, CPG Facilities Management, outsourced the maintenance of the town council management system for close to $460,000 a year. FMSS did this without cost, he said.

He said Mr Loh and Ms How worked "tirelessly" and performed the difficult task of upscaling the IT system used by the WP-run Hougang Town Council so it could be used for the larger Aljunied GRC.

This was after CPG's contracted provider, Action Information Management (AIM), terminated its services to Aljunied Town Council, leaving AHTC "stripped" of its computer system.

Mr Netto said the auditors were "not in the shoes" of AHTC, and that a plain reading of the audit report suggests they were prepared by "bloodhounds", not "watchdogs". In the two lawsuits filed by AHTC and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) against the defendants, "knives have been sharpened", with the defendants as "lambs".

Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, who is representing the PRPTC, said last Friday that the circumstances in which FMSS was appointed created a system whereby "controls were abdicated and checks and balances were thrown to the wind".







AHTC Trial DAY 1: 5 Oct 2018

Checks and balances at AHTC lacking and flawed, court told
Three WP leaders breached duties they owed town council, says senior counsel
By Selina Lum, Law Correspondent, The Straits Times, 6 Oct 2018

The system of checks and balances at the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) was "so lacking and flawed that it allowed conflicted persons to enrich themselves almost at will", said one of Singapore's top lawyers yesterday.

Senior Counsel Davinder Singh made the point at the start of two multimillion-dollar lawsuits against three opposition MPs who are leaders of the Workers' Party (WP).

Mr Singh, representing Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), charged that the trio, former WP chief Low Thia Khiang, party chairman Sylvia Lim and current party leader Pritam Singh, who are also elected town councillors, had breached the fiduciary and statutory duties they owed AHTC.

His opening statement in the high-profile case came after Mr David Chan, counsel for the AHTC, accused Mr Low and Ms Lim of advancing the interests of their longtime supporters over those of residents in the constituencies.

AHTC, under the direction of an independent panel, was the first to file the suit. Its claims against the three MPs and five other defendants include $33.7 million that was paid to AHTC's former managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) from July 15, 2011 to July 14, 2015.

Mr Low and Ms Lim have been asked to account for the money and to repay any sums that had been paid out wrongfully.

The other defendants are FMSS, its owners Danny Loh and his wife How Weng Fan, and two other town councillors: Mr Chua Zhi Hon and Mr Kenneth Foo.

FMSS was owned and run by Mr Loh, who died in 2015, and Ms How.

The couple, long-time supporters of WP, were also office-holders at AHTC: Mr Loh was secretary, while Ms How was deputy secretary and general manager.

Mr Chan, in his opening statement, said that shortly after Mr Low and Ms Lim's victory in the 2011 General Election in May, they asked the couple to set up FMSS to take over from existing managing agent CPG Facilities Management, even though CPG had at least two more years left on its contract.

Both MPs were aware the town council appointments placed the couple in a position of conflict, but they went ahead, Mr Chan said.

This created a system that, Mr Singh said, allowed the couple to approve payments to themselves, whereby "controls were abdicated and checks and balances were thrown to the wind".

Mr Singh accused the defendants of "misleading" residents, Parliament and the public by saying there was an urgent need to put in place a new managing agent because the incumbent had asked to be released from its contract.

Describing FMSS as just a "shell", Mr Singh said: "A company which had no track record in managing town councils of this size, a company which, apart from directors and a few management staff, had no staff at all, was given this contract on the quiet."

Mr Singh noted Ms Lim signed the letter of intent from FMSS on July 8, 2011, ahead of an Aug 4 meeting with the other town councillors.

"What was being done was effectively handcuffing AHTC and its residents to FMSS," said Mr Singh.

PRPTC, which manages the affairs of single-seat Punggol East, is suing to recover its share of losses allegedly suffered when the constituency was managed from 2013 to 2015 by WP's Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

It came under PRPTC after the WP lost the constituency in the 2015 General Election. AHPETC was later reconstituted as AHTC.

Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, who acts for the five town councillors, however, said they have not breached any of their duties and cannot be held liable.

He argued that his clients do not owe any fiduciary duties to AHTC.

Town councils were designed to operate with as much latitude as possible and it is for the electorate to bear the responsibility of their choice in electing the MPs who would represent them, he said.

Town councillors owe statutory duties set out in the Town Councils Act, he said, adding his clients had acted in accordance with the Act.

The civil trial, scheduled to be heard before Justice Kannan Ramesh till Nov 2, turns a new page in the long-running saga involving the financial mismanagement of AHTC. A special audit by the Auditor-General's Office - called after AHTC's auditors could not submit an unqualified set of accounts for years - identified 115 areas of non-compliance with regulations. A subsequent KPMG audit found another 71 lapses.

Yesterday, WP MPs Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap and Png Eng Huat as well as the party's Non-Constituency MPs Daniel Goh, Leon Perera and Dennis Tan, attended the hearing, sitting in the packed public gallery.

The case continues on Monday.








AHTC trial: WP MPs created system where 'checks and balances were thrown to the wind' by appointing FMSS
Court looks at situation in which FMSS was appointed
Existing managing agent had two years left on contract but WP appointed new agent
By Adrian Lim, Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 6 Oct 2018

When Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim and then chief Low Thia Khiang were elected MPs for Aljunied GRC in 2011, the existing managing agent of the Aljunied Town Council - CPG Facilities Management - still had two more years left on its contract.

But Ms Lim and Mr Low decided to appoint a newly set-up company to manage town council affairs for both Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC.

The new managing agent, FM Solutions & Services (FMSS), was started by the late Mr Danny Loh Chong Meng and his wife, Ms How Weng Fan, who then became secretary and general manager of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) respectively.

The circumstances in which FMSS was appointed came under scrutiny on the first day of a multi-million-dollar case against three WP MPs - including current chief Pritam Singh - and two town councillors yesterday.

The case involves over $33.7 million paid by the town council from July 15, 2011 to July 14, 2015 to FMSS and service provider FM Solutions and Integrated Services (FMSI), which Mr Low and Ms Lim have been asked to account for and to repay any money paid out wrongfully.

The lawsuit, which has been initiated by Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) under the direction of an independent panel, alleges that the payments to FMSS and FMSI were improper and void.

As the WP had also managed Punggol East from 2013 to 2015, after winning the constituency from the ruling party in a by-election, the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) is also suing to recover Punggol East's share of losses arising from the alleged improper payments.



The court heard yesterday that the decision to appoint FMSS was made in the weeks following the May 7 General Election in 2011, as seen in e-mails between the parties, including Mr Low, Ms Lim and Ms How.

FMSS was then set up on May 15, 2011, and in June, a letter of intent was endorsed. Soon after, on Aug 1, FMSS took over the running of AHTC, the same day CPG's services were discharged.

AHTC's lawyer, Shook Lin & Bok's Mr David Chan, highlighted an e-mail sent by Ms How to Mr Jeffrey Chua, Aljunied Town Council's (ATC) general manager, on May 13, 2011, two days before FMSS was founded.

In it, Ms How, the secretary of Hougang Town Council - before it was merged with ATC - asked Mr Chua for details of ATC staff, so as to facilitate a smooth handover.

Mr Chan said it "was clear" that there were plans for Ms How and her new company to take over the ATC.

No tender was called to appoint FMSS. The PRPTC's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, said there was "more than ample time" to conduct a tender, and CPG could have been asked to stay on for a few more months.

But Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, who is representing the WP MPs and town councillors, countered that there was "latitude" for a town council chairman, like Ms Lim, to waive the requirement to call a tender altogether.

He cited a speech by then National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, which was made in Parliament in May 2013, to back this.

Reading Mr Low's affidavit in court, Mr Rajah said the WP veteran faced challenges when he became Hougang MP in 1991, such as finding a new office at short notice.

In the mid-90s, the Housing Board also terminated its Essential Maintenance Service Unit contract and computer services for Hougang Town Council, leaving Mr Low to find replacements.

Based on this, the WP MPs were prepared that the current managing agent, CPG, which was contracted by the People's Action Party, would not want to continue serving the town council.

In fact, it was CPG's Mr Chua who told the AHTC during a meeting in May 2011, that it did not want to continue, said Mr Rajah.

"In the following days after this meeting, Mr Chua informed us that the reason for CPG not wishing to continue was that CPG also served as managing agent for Ang Mo Kio Town Council, which was helmed by the Prime Minister," Mr Rajah said, citing Ms Lim's affidavit.

"As such, it would be bad for CPG's business to be serving PAP town councils as well as a town council run by an opposition party," Mr Rajah continued.

In the case of the second managing agent contract given to FMSS in 2012, Mr Rajah said a tender had been called and only FMSS put in a bid.

Before awarding FMSS, Ms Lim had engaged Kelly Services, an HR company, to check if the salaries and job descriptions of FMSS staff were in line with market rates.

An audit firm, RSM Ethos, was also hired to examine the tender process and evaluation process.

The other defendants in the suit are town councillors Kenneth Foo Seck Guan and Chua Zhi Hon, FMSS and Ms How, who is also representing her late husband.








Engaging higher-priced architect led to AHTC paying $2.8 million more
By Selina Lum, Law Correspondent, The Straits Times, 6 Oct 2018

The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) had two architects on its panel but engaged the higher-priced firm for seven out of 10 construction projects.

This caused it to pay up to $2.8 million more than it would have had to if it had appointed the other, lower-priced architect.

The sum is among a number of "improper payments" that are at the centre of a court case involving three Workers' Party (WP) MPs and five other defendants, who are being sued for allegedly breaching their fiduciary duties to the town council.

With regard to the $2.8 million, compensation is being sought from all eight defendants, including former WP chief Low Thia Khiang, party chairman Sylvia Lim and current party leader Pritam Singh.

The money could have been saved if the seven projects had been awarded to lower-priced Design Metabolist instead of LST Architects, argued the plaintiffs AHTC and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council yesterday, on the first day of the trial over two multimillion-dollar civil lawsuits.



Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, who is acting for the WP MPs and two other town councillors, said that for certain projects, the more expensive architect may be more suitable. "Horses for courses," he said, using an expression to mean that it is important to choose suitable people for particular activities because everyone has different skills.

AHTC's case is that separate tenders should have been called for certain projects.

Mr Rajah, however, argued that it was not improper to appoint a panel of consultants.

This was a practice of the People's Action Party-run Aljunied Town Council as well as other town councils under the management of the ruling party, he said.

"What is OK for Peter doesn't seem to be OK for Paul," he added.







Relationship was strictly business: Lawyer for FMSS
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 6 Oct 2018

Ms How Weng Fan, and her husband, the late Mr Danny Loh Chong Meng, had no intentions of setting up FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) in May 2011, as they were then contemplating semi-retirement.

But Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang asked Ms How to reconsider, as he wanted a company to take over as managing agent for the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), if the incumbent vendor, CPG Facilities Management, was to withdraw.

This was to prevent any disruption of services to residents in Aljunied GRC, which Mr Low and his team had won in a landmark victory during the May 7 General Election.

This was the scenario painted by lawyer Leslie Netto, who is representing Ms How and FMSS, the defendants in a multi-million dollar lawsuit that also involves three WP MPs and two councillors.

Ms How is also representing her husband, the late Mr Loh.



The lawsuit, initiated by AHTC under the direction of an independent panel, centres on $33.7 million in payments AHTC made from 2011 to 2015 to FMSS and service provider FM Solutions and Integrated Services (FMSI).

Ms How and Mr Loh, both shareholders of FMSS, were appointed AHTC's general manager and secretary respectively.

Addressing accusations that there were conflicts of interest and that friends or supporters of WP MPs and town councillors had benefited, Mr Netto said that Ms How will testify that the relationship was a purely business one, and there were no kickbacks.

Mr Netto added that though there was no requirement under the Town Council Act in 2011 for Mr Loh and Ms How to disclose their interests in FMSS, they did so anyway.

Last year, the Town Council Act was amended to require disclosure from the town council secretary and the managing agent of any conflicts of interest.










AHTC trial: 'No room for doubt' that town councillors and officers of town councils are custodians of public monies
Senior counsel Davinder Singh throws doubt on motives behind change of agent
By Linette Lai, Health Correspondent and Adrian Lim, Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 6 Oct 2018

There is "simply no room for doubt" that town councillors and officers of town councils are custodians of residents' and public monies, said the lawyer for Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), Senior Counsel Davinder Singh.

In his opening statement at the start of a civil case against three Workers' Party (WP) MPs yesterday, Mr Singh said those public monies are "given to town councillors and officers not to benefit friends and supporters", but to carefully spend to benefit residents and the estate.

The three Aljunied GRC MPs - former WP chief Low Thia Khiang, party chairman Sylvia Lim and secretary-general Pritam Singh - are facing lawsuits from PRPTC and the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC). Both lawsuits are linked to the $33.7 million paid to FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) and a related service provider between July 2011 and July 2015.

AHTC alleges these payments were improper and void, and that the WP MPs had acted in breach of their fiduciary duties. PRPTC is alleging the decisions taken by the town councillors had caused it to suffer "loss and damage", and is claiming equitable compensation.



In his opening statement, Mr Singh also drew attention to reports by global accounting firms KPMG and PwC, saying they "make it overwhelmingly clear" the instances of non-compliance, lapses and failures stem from a "complete and reckless disregard" of their duty to protect residents' and public monies.

The system of checks and balances in the town council was so lacking and flawed, he said, "that it allowed conflicted persons to enrich themselves almost at will".

"It is striking that despite the KPMG and PwC reports, there is no honourable acknowledgement of wrongdoing," Mr Singh said. Instead, the defendants had come "ready to use the witness stand as a soapbox to score political points".

Mr Singh also noted that "there was no urgency" for AHTC to replace its then managing agent CPG in 2011, as the contract still had two years to run. "There is nothing in any contemporaneous document" to show CPG would have disputed or challenged AHTC's right to compel CPG to fulfil its contract till expiry or a tender was called to appoint a new managing agent, Mr Singh said.

He added that Ms Lim and Mr Low had decided to bring in FMSS, and took steps to achieve that objective, "in complete disregard for the law and their duties".

"It was also not as if their motives were honourable. That reprehensible enterprise was undertaken to achieve collateral and improper purposes," he said.

Mr Singh pointed to a letter of intent with FMSS that Ms Lim signed in June 2011, which stated that FMSS' appointment would take effect from July 15, 2011.

"Under the cover of darkness, this letter of intent was sent (to FMSS) and accepted with no tender, no discussion... (with) town council members of the basis to waive the tender," he said.

This, he added, was "effectively handcuffing AHTC to FMSS". Town council members were told of FMSS' appointment only on Aug 4, 2011, by which time they had no choice.

"Once they signed the letter of intent... they have effectively lost all leverage... and given FMSS a gun to put to their head," he said.

Mr Singh also said that FMSS was given "carte blanche" to hire as many new staff members as they needed, in preparation for taking over AHTC, akin to being given a "blank cheque".















Town councils' suits against Workers' Party MPs Pritam Singh, Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang start on 5 October 2018
By Rachel Au-Yong, Housing Correspondent, The Straits Times, 5 Oct 2018

The trial for the multi-million-dollar lawsuits against three Workers' Party town councillors will start on Friday.

Expected to run until Nov 2, it will see former WP chief Low Thia Khiang, chairman Sylvia Lim and current leader Pritam Singh take the stand.



The Aljunied GRC MPs are among those being sued by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) under the direction of an independent panel. They also face a suit from the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), which manages the affairs of Punggol East.

The other defendants in the lawsuit are AHTC's former managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), its owner How Weng Fan, and two other town councillors, Mr Chua Zhi Hon and Mr Kenneth Foo.

Both lawsuits are linked to the more than $33 million paid to FMSS and a related service provider between July 2011 and July 2015.

AHTC wants the town councillors to account for the sum and repay any money that was wrongfully paid out. PRPTC alleges that the decisions made by the town councillors had caused it to suffer "loss and damage", and is claiming equitable compensation.



In a statement last July, the three WP MPs rejected the claim that they acted in breach of their fiduciary duties, among other allegations. They also denied that they entered into contracts with architects in breach of duties owed to AHTC.

On being asked to give an account of profits made from the appointment of FMSS or pay damages of at least $1.25 million, Mr Low and Ms Lim said they have "not benefited a single cent".

Ms Lim and Mr Singh have also been asked to pay damages of $2.8 million for the wrongful appointment of architects.

"The WP MPs have acted in good faith and in the best interests of the town council and our residents," they said.

Observers are watching the suit closely for the legal and political implications the verdict might have.

In what some have called a "landmark case", the courts will have to rule on whether town councillors owe a fiduciary duty to their town councils because such a relationship between town councillors and town councils is not spelt out in the Town Councils Act.

And if the defendants are indeed found liable, the defendants would have to compensate AHTC.

If they cannot pay up, they risk being declared bankrupt and having their assets seized. MPs who are made bankrupt will lose their seats.



The trial is likely to see KPMG Forensics partner Owen Hawkes and PwC partner Goh Thien Phong take the stand first.

Both men belong to firms tasked to examine Aljunied-Hougang Town Council's accounts.

The WP MPs and town councillors will be represented by Tan Rajah & Cheah, with lawyer Chelva Retnam Rajah as lead counsel.

The independent AHTC panel is represented by a team from Shook Lin and Bok led by lawyer David Chan, while PRPTC is represented by Drew & Napier, and FMSS is represented by Netto & Magin.








AHTC lawsuits: About the case
The Straits Times, 19 Oct 2018

The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) is suing three Workers' Party (WP) MPs - party chairman Sylvia Lim, former chief Low Thia Khiang and secretary-general Pritam Singh - as well as two of its town councillors over $33.7 million in payments that AHTC made between July 15, 2011, and July 14, 2015.

The civil lawsuit, initiated by AHTC under the direction of an independent panel, alleges that the payments to its former managing agent were improper and void, as Mr Low and Ms Lim had acted in breach of their fiduciary duties.

The duo have been asked to account for the sum and to repay any money paid out wrongfully. Also named in that suit are town councillors Chua Zhi Hon and Kenneth Foo, the former managing agent FM Solutions & Services (FMSS), and the firm's owner, Ms How Weng Fan, who is also representing her late husband Danny Loh.

The Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) has also filed a suit against AHTC to recover any losses suffered by Punggol East from the alleged wrongful payments. The constituency came under AHTC after the WP won it in a 2013 by-election. The People's Action Party won Punggol East back in the 2015 General Election, and it became part of the PRPTC.

The case is the latest turn in an ongoing saga that goes back to 2011.



AHTC had been unable to submit an unqualified set of accounts since 2011, after the WP won Aljunied GRC in the 2011 General Election.

The state of affairs led to a special audit by the Auditor-General's Office (AGO), which found significant governance lapses at AHTC.

The AGO's findings were raised in Parliament, and the Court of Appeal directed AHTC to appoint a Big Four accounting firm to help it fix the lapses and ensure compliance with the law. AHTC appointed independent auditor KPMG in 2016 to look into its books.

KPMG found that the lapses at AHTC had put public funds running into millions of dollars at risk of improper use. AHTC appointed an independent panel to look into the improper payments and take action, including recovering the money.

The WP MPs and town councillors are represented by Tan Rajah & Cheah, with lawyer Chelva Retnam Rajah as lead counsel.

The independent AHTC panel is represented by a team from Shook Lin and Bok, led by lawyer David Chan.

PRPTC is represented by Drew & Napier, led by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, while FMSS is represented by Netto & Magin.









Related
Workers' Party MPs sued by own Town Council AHTC over $33 million in improper payments; High Court trial in October 2018

AHTC Appoints Independent Panel to Review Findings of KPMG Past Payments Report dated 31 Oct 2016 and Safeguard AHTC’s Interests -17 Feb 2017

'Pervasive' lapses found in Workers' Party town council accounts; Some lapses may amount to criminal conduct: KPMG

Workers' Party town council lapses detailed in KPMG 1st report -15 Apr 2016

Workers' Party town council ordered by Court of Appeal to appoint one of the Big Four accounting firms to examine its books

Appeal court orders WP-run AHPETC to appoint accountants to fix lapses

Workers' Party town council managing agent FMSS has been "grossly profiteering" off AHPETC: MND

Gerald Giam on AHPETC bullshit: 'We say only the good stuff'

Auditors hired by AHPETC unable to verify its accounts for third straight year (FY2013-2014)

MND v AHPETC: Judge blasts WP-run council but rejects MND's oversight plea

Workers' Party Town Council "technically insolvent"

AHPETC: MND applies to court to appoint Independent Accountants to safeguard S&CC funds

AHPETC paid Managing Agent estimated S$1.6 million a year more than other TCs: MND

Parliament: Debate on AGO's audit report on AHPETC, Day 1

Parliament: Debate on AGO's audit report on AHPETC, Day 2

Shanmugam: AHPETC setup designed to let friends benefit

Pritam Singh to AHPETC residents: Ask me where is your money?




Sylvia Lim takes responsibility for friends with benefits in AHPETC

Chen Show Mao learns he's in a fiduciary relationship with AHPETC

Low Thia Khiang admits after 20 years, he still has no idea how to manage Town Councils

AGO Audit of Workers' Party-run town council FY2012-13 accounts flags major lapses

AHPETC does badly in S&CC arrears, corporate governance in Town Council FY2013 report

AHPETC auditors' disclaimer of opinion on financial statements for FY2012





AIM IT deal done to benefit town councils: Teo Ho Pin

PAP, WP in war of words over IT firm

AIM vs AHTC: Computer firm says town council's claim "inaccurate"

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