Misconception on appointment of independent panel by AHTC

Misconception on appointment of independent panel by AHTC
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The independent panel seeking to recover alleged overpayments by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) is not an arbitrary panel which the Workers’ Party (WP) had set up. Some say the panel was “installed” by the AHTC. 

The misconception by some seems to be that the WP, which runs the town council, had unilaterally set up the panel. The insinuation here is that the panel is not an independent one. But those who are propagating such a misconception apparently do not know how the panel came into being in the first place – although a simple googling online would throw up the facts.

So, let us take a look at the issue, factually.

On 17 February, the WP announced in a press release (published on its website) that it had appointed an independent panel “to review the findings” of the “Past Payment Report” by accounting firm, KPMG.

The members of the panel are: Chairman, Mr Philip Jeyaretnam SC, and members Mr N Sreenivasan SC and Mr Ong Pang Thye (Managing Partner of KPMG LLP).

The panel was “to act as agents of AHTC under Section 32(2) of the Town Councils Act.”

The WP had also attached the terms of reference of the panel with the press release (which you can view on the WP website).

But did the WP unilaterally appoint the panel all by itself?

No.

The panel was not appointed by the WP, but by AHTC.

And it was the HDB which had instructed the AHTC to appoint a third-party panel to look into recovering alleged overpayments. And the HDB was consulted during the setting up of the panel and the appointment of its members.

The AHTC statement said the appointment of the panel was done “in consultation with HDB.”

This was confirmed by a statement from the HDB on the same day.

The HDB, in fact, revealed that the Court of Appeal itself had approved the appointment – and thus, the composition – of the panel.

According to Channel Newsasia:

“HDB said the Court of Appeal gave the green light on the appointment of the panel and its terms of reference on Friday.”

A Straits Times report, also on the same day, said:

The Housing Board and AHTC said in separate statements on Friday (Feb 17) that they have agreed to the appointment of the panel.”

If you need further confirmation that the above is true, the PAP-run Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council report on the matter said, at point 2.18 (b):

“… an Independent Panel (“IP”) has since been appointed by AHTC, with the agreement of HDB, to look into the KPMG Report.”

So, those are the facts.

The independent panel which filed the lawsuit against the Members of Parliament of the WP is one appointed by AHTC – not the WP – with concurrence and in consultation with the HDB, and its appointment had been approved by the Court of Appeal.

“The panel will act independently, without remuneration, and without taking directions from AHTC, HDB or any other party,” said Mr Pritam Singh, chairman of the AHTC.

On 11 May, the panel released a statement which said: “The Independent Panel has also engaged legal advisors and is in the process of considering and following up on advice received, as well as seeking further comments from AHTC.”

For those, particularly pro-PAP, pro-Government supporters, who are going around spewing false news about the matter should spend some time to learn the facts. Otherwise, it does no one any good as far as understanding the serious and important issues involved.