The AGO has released their audit findings on AHPETC’s accounts

The full audit findings from the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) on AHPETC’s accounts was finally released yesterday (9 February), after a lot of arguments between WP chairman Sylvia Lim and Minister of State Desmond Lee over Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC)’s account management.

AHPETC had an independent auditor checking on their accounts for FY2012-2013.

However, the independent auditor complained about AHPETC’s reports having several lapses, including missing reports in 2011, and the AGO ended up being arrowed by the Finance Minister (who in turn was arrowed by the Ministry of National Development) to audit the accounts in February last year.

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The results weren’t pretty for AHPETC.

Now, unless you clicked on this utterly hilarious stream of headlines —

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— you’re probably not going to have an easy time following every report, so here’s a really short summary.

The lapses:

1. Money put in the wrong place, might have affected maintenance

2. Companies hired by the Town Council had Town Council (TC) members as owners and stakeholders (conflict of interest)

3. No system to keep track of money owed and to be paid (arrears)

4. Not enough measures taken to prevent fraud or over/underpaying of money; in some cases, none at all

5. Missing documents from transition period of Town Council managing agent handover (April-July 2011), and improper accounting in general

Wah, so jialat ah?!

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Apparently, the transition from PAP-run TC to WP-run TC wasn’t as smooth-sailing as anyone would have liked.

Resorting to manual accounting, conflicts of interest, no system to prevent fraud…the list goes on.

However, there isn’t any evidence to suggest that AHPETC has committed fraud — they’re just really incompetent at accounting.

Reasons that AHPETC provided for lapses

– Not having a system that can fulfill MND’s requirements to generate arrears reports;

– Having to move resources into preparing for the annual TC audit which resulted in the non-submission of monthly reports;

– Existing TC contractors being asses not wanting to renew their contracts after the handover;

– First time holding an event, causing an undervaluation of costs.

If they need any more reasons though, they can refer to this handy list:

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But in all seriousness, going from Hougang Town Council (home to 24,555 people) to Aljunied Town Council (143,101 people) is a big undertaking, due to the difference in size of the constituencies.

Residents do not seem to be worried, although the management of AHPETC will definitely be an issue come the next elections.

Accountability in the long-term

There may be some good out of the report. Other town councils will be subject to more scrutiny regarding their accounting practices, hopefully starting Thursday (12 February) in Parliament when Minister Khaw Boon Wan will attempt to pass move a motion on town councils to uphold high standards of accounting.

That means more audits on town councils.

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Wordy reports full of numbers are the bane of everyone who isn’t an accountant, but reports should be viewed in full to have a better understanding, according to Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim, who will be responding to the findings in full, in Parliament.

The full AGO report can be found here.


Featured image via Channel NewsAsia
With references from Today Online, MND, Channel NewsAsia