AHTC surprised at Government’s U-Turn to compel AHTC to recuse MPs Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang from oversight; will comply to focus energies on running Aljunied-Hougang Town
Aljunied-Hougang Town Council has responded today to MND’s rectification order under the Town Councils Act.
On 4 December 2019, MND wrote a letter to AHTC to request for information on AHTC’s reasons for not requiring Ms Sylvia Lim’s and Mr Low Thia Khiang’s recusal on AHTC’s financial matters, and whether AHTC intends to implement other interim measures or safeguards if Ms Lim and Mr Low were to continue to be involved with AHTC’s financial affairs.
In our response to MND dated 13 December 2019, AHTC explained the reasons for not requiring the recusal of Ms Lim and Mr Low from all matters relating to, and oversight over, financial matters at AHTC.
a. Amongst other facts, the Town Council considered whether Ms Lim and Mr Low had benefitted personally from the award of contracts without tender. The Town Council discussed and concluded that this was not the case;
b. The Town Council further noted that the judgment did not pass any comment or establish a view that Ms Lim and Mr Low were incapable of handling financial matters. Over the years, both Ms Lim and Mr Low did not show that they were incapable of handling financial matters at AHTC, a fact town councillors could vouch for; and
c. The Town Council found no compelling reasons to insist on the recusal of Ms Lim and Mr Low from financial matters at AHTC solely on the basis of political decisions taken by Mr Low and Ms Lim in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 general elections.
We further explained our internal control procedures that are in place.
a. Implementation and monitoring of internal control system
The task of monitoring and reviewing the Town Council’s system for internal financial control and risk management falls under the purview of the Audit Committee. Ms Lim and Mr Low are not members of the Audit Committee. Separately, AHTC had engaged an independent internal auditor for the past two years. The engagement specifically includes modules such as corporate governance and procurement, amongst others for review. This additional audit scrutiny, beyond that required by the Town Councils Act and in the aftermath of the KPMG engagement, has helped ensure that AHTC’s corporate governance practices are of a high standard.
b. Segregation of duties in workflow processes
AHTC procurement and payment is safeguarded by segregation of duties. A summary of our procurement and payment process is as follows:
|Appointment of vendors||Procuring services from appointed vendors||Payment||Cheque|
|Key stakeholder||Tenders and Contracts Committee||Operations Employees (except for contracts and finance department)||Finance Department||2 signatories based on TCFR|
|Approver||By majority vote||Heads of departments / GM / VC / Chair||Finance Manager||MPs / Secretary / Dy GM|
c. Segregation of duties in Committees
|Committee||No. of Members||How decisions are made|
|Tender and Contracts Committee||5 (including Ms Lim)||· Contracts Department checks the conflict of interest declaration made by employees and Town Councillors against all tenderers
· Contracts Department performs a PQM assessment on all tenderers before tenders are presented to the committee for evaluation
· Committee selects and approves vendor based on majority vote
|Estate & Community Liaison Committee||9 (including Ms Lim and Mr Low)||· Committee has delegated powers from the Town Council to make decisions on utilizing the gazetted budget for specific Sinking Fund works
· Committee is guided by relevant policies, standing order and statutory provisions of the Town Councils Act and Town Council Financial Rules (TCFR)
· Committee approves work based on majority vote
|Finance & Investment Committee||4 (including Ms Lim as Committee Chairman)||· Committee does not have delegated powers from the Town Council to make decisions
· Committee reviews the Town Council’s annual budget, financial performances, arrears management and investment of surplus funds
Rectification Order Under Section 43D(2)(b) of Town Councils Act
With the above internal control procedures in place, AHTC is of the view that there are sufficient checks and balances in place. We are thus surprised that the Minister, in a letter dated 3 January 2020, invoked Section 43D(2) of the Town Councils Act.
This is a shift by the government from its earlier position in Parliament. Please refer to our letter to MND here.
ALJUNIED-HOUGANG TOWN COUNCIL
17 January 2020