In its judgment of 27 November 2015, the Court of Appeal had required Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) to appoint accountants to carry out certain tasks. The appointment was to be subject to the consent of the Housing & Development Board (HDB), which consent should not be withheld unreasonably.
Starting 4 December 2015, AHTC put forward to HDB nominations from the accountants who were willing to undertake the assignment. AHTC had deemed its first two nominations suitable, as they consisted of public and chartered accountants with relevant experience, including the audit of Town Councils. After intense scrutiny from HDB and media attention, the firms decided to withdraw from consideration.
On 21 January 2016, AHTC made a third nomination consisting of two public accountants with experience in regulatory and forensic work, belonging to a firm of about 55 accountants. At the court hearing today, 22 January 2016, HDB indicated that it had insufficient time to assess AHTC’s third nomination, and that they may not have the expertise required.
In today’s hearing, HDB obtained the Court’s approval to table confidential information from the Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority’s (ACRA’s) Practice Monitoring Programme (PMP) concerning the first two nominations. This was despite the fact that both firms had already withdrawn. ACRA’s PMP information is not publicly available. Given the implications on the reputation of the professionals involved, AHTC successfully applied for a sealing order on the information. Under this sealing order, the information would not be publicly available unless the court otherwise orders.
The Court of Appeal has now directed AHTC to appoint one of the Big Four accounting firms to undertake the tasks, within two weeks. AHTC will act on this, and will work with the accountants eventually appointed.
AHTC wishes to express its deep gratitude to the accountants who had stepped forward to be of service to AHTC, despite the intense scrutiny they have faced.
ALJUNIED-HOUGANG TOWN COUNCIL
22 January 2016