MND Issues Order under the Town Councils Act Requiring AHTC to Take Specific Actions to Guard Against Recurrence of Irregularities

Jan 3, 2020 16:00


The Minister for National Development has issued an order requiring Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) to take action against two of its town councillors, Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang, specifically, to restrict their powers with respect to certain financial decisions, in order to guard against a recurrence of irregularities caused by them.  The order does not preclude Ms Lim and Mr Low from continuing to serve as elected members of AHTC, and discharging all other functions and duties in their respective capacities, including taking part in discussions and voting in committees.

Background

The High Court judgment in October 2019 found that Ms Lim and Mr Low, both elected town councillors of AHTC, had breached their fiduciary duties to AHTC, acted dishonestly, and without integrity and candour. Despite these serious and grave findings, AHTC had resolved that Ms Lim and Mr Low do not need to recuse themselves from all of AHTC’s financial matters.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) wrote to AHTC on 4 December 2019 to request for information on AHTC’s reasons for not requiring Ms Lim’s and Mr Low’s recusal on all of AHTC’s financial matters, and whether AHTC intends to implement other interim measures or safeguards. MND received AHTC’s response on 13 December 2019. 

Rectification Order Under Section 43D(2)(b) of Town Councils Act

MND has carefully considered AHTC’s letter of 13 December 2019. We note that the reasons provided by AHTC for not requiring Ms Lim and Mr Low to recuse themselves from all of AHTC’s financial matters do not relate directly to, and more importantly, do not detract from the grave and serious Court findings on Ms Lim’s and Mr Low’s conduct. Further, while we note the measures that AHTC has put in place, it is not apparent – and AHTC has not demonstrated – how they would be effective to guard against a recurrence of irregularities arising from the acts of dishonest Town Councillors.

Therefore, pursuant to section 43D(2)(b) of the Town Councils Act, the Minister for National Development has issued an order requiring AHTC to take the following actions:  

a. To mandate that Ms Lim and Mr Low shall not have the authority (either by way of delegated powers or otherwise) to unilaterally incur or approve expenditure on behalf of AHTC; 

b. To mandate that Ms Lim and Mr Low shall not have the authority (either by way of delegated powers or otherwise) to unilaterally accept or waive any quotation or tender for any stores, services or works on behalf of AHTC; and 

c. To mandate that Ms Lim and Mr Low shall not serve as cheque signatories for AHTC. 

MND notes that Ms Lim and Mr Low have filed an appeal against the High Court judgment. After the appeal has been heard and disposed of, MND will consider the judgment of the appellate court carefully and review whether this order is to remain, be cancelled or be varied in any manner.