News

Town council hails decision

Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has directed the Auditor-General to conduct an audit of the Workers' Party-run Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC)'s 2012-13 accounts.

AHPETC has welcomed the Government's decision to have its accounts audited.

"We assure the Auditor-General's Office of our full co-operation in this matter," AHPETC chairman Sylvia Lim said in a statement yesterday.

The audit by the Auditor-General is at the request of National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan. It comes after an independent auditor raised issues of concern regarding AHPETC's latest accounts.

In a joint statement yesterday, the Ministries of Finance and National Development said the observations in the independent auditor's report "raise serious questions about the reliability and accuracy of AHPETC's financial and accounting systems".

The ministries added: "As stewards of public funds, all town councils must keep proper accounts and records, and ensure adequate control over their assets."

They also noted that this is the second year running that AHPETC's auditor, Foo Kon Tan Grant Thornton, has submitted a disclaimer of opinion on its financial statements.

A disclaimer of opinion indicates a lack of proper records, and procedures, resulting in the auditor being unable to obtain the necessary evidence to provide an opinion on the veracity of the financial statements.

In his letter to the Auditor-General, Mr Tharman said he shared Mr Khaw's concerns over the independent auditor's report, and the questions it raises over the adequacy of AHPETC's systems and whether public funds in AHPETC are properly applied.

TERMS OF REFERENCE

The terms of reference for the audit allow the Auditor-General to examine whether AHPETC has taken "all reasonable steps" to safeguard the collection and custody of AHPETC's moneys; ensure that this money was issued and paid in accordance with proper authority and that payments were properly chargeable and supported with sufficient evidence; and ensure that AHPETC had complied with any laws relating to its moneys, such as the Town Councils Act and Town Councils Financial Rules.

The audit will also investigate the causes of the auditor's disclaimer of opinion and ascertain the reliability and accuracy of AHPETC's financial management and accounting processes and systems, as well as understand the council's accounts.