It has finally begun. Friday, October the 5th, marked the start of the highly anticipated high-profile trial against three Workers’ Party (WP) MPs who are being sued by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) over $33.7 million in payments made from Jul 11 2011 to Jul 14 2015.
The AHTC, which was prompted by an independent panel, initiated a lawsuit which alleged that the payments to its former managing agent and service provider were “improper and void”, reflecting and suggesting that the three Aljunied GRC MPs had acted in breach of their fiduciary* duties. They are accused of an inability to properly and transparently account for payments made to the former management agent and service provider and thus have been asked to, if unable to account for the sum, to repay any money paid out wrongfully.
When the WP won their seat in Aljunied back in 2011, they rushed to appoint a new managing agent and service provider for the newly formed AHTC. However, at that time, the initial service provider, CPG Facilities Management, was contracted for about two more years. The justification for such a change, which then warranted a waiver of tender, was claimed to be “unjustified and unwarranted” by the plaintiffs in their opening statements. Things get more complicated when taking into account that this new managing agent, FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), was to be run by long-time WP supporters, the late Danny Loh Chong Meng and his Wife, Ms How Weng Fan, suggesting a clear conflict of interest.
Concurrently, the AHTC is also facing a suit from the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council over similar allegations on the management of funds of the single-seat Punggol East SMC which the WP won in 2013 during a by-election (and thus absorbed under AHTC to become AHPTC) but later lost back to the PAP during the 2015 GE election.
The WP claims that a system was in place to ensure that the monthly payments the AHTC made to FMSS were signed off and approved diligently by WP Chairman Sylvia Lim to stress the accountability and transparency of the funds used.
*A fiduciary is a person who acts for or on behalf of another, in a legal or practical relationship of trust, such as one between a trustee or beneficiary.
(Photo taken from Straits Times)