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Author Topic: Politicians: Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang, Pritam Singh [Certified Dishonest]  (Read 525 times)

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AHTC case: WP MPs ‘had not acted honestly’ and tried to mislead, says judge
By NG JUN SEN, Navene Elangovan | 11 October, 2019

SINGAPORE — In arriving at his verdict following a year-long trial, High Court Judge Kannan Ramesh had strong words for the Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament (MPs) sued by Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) — calling them out for dishonest and improper conduct, among other things.

In particular, the appointment of former managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) without tender by party chairman Sylvia Lim, former chief Low Thia Khiang and current chief Pritam Singh and the subsequent “concerted attempt” to cloak it “with a veneer of truth and credibility collectively”, came in for harsh criticism by the judge in his 329-page written judgment released on Friday (Oct 11).

“It was an attempt to mislead, and a clinical demonstration of the disregard Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang had for the requirements in the Town Councils Financial Rules,” said Justice Ramesh, who also chided the pair for putting political interests above that of AHTC and its residents.

Adding that the actions of Mr Low and Ms Lim were driven by “politics and a misguided sense of loyalty”, the judge said they had engineered a plan with the bosses of FMSS — both loyal WP supporters — to ensure that the company would be appointed AHTC’s managing agent.

“They did this by deliberately delaying the calling of tender so that time for doing so would be compressed,” he wrote. “This in turn served, as intended, as a convenient excuse and purported justification for the waiver of tender on the ground of exceptional circumstances, thereby facilitating the appointment of FMSS as managing agent under the first managing agent contract.”

He added: “Their motivations for doing so had nothing to do with the best interests of AHTC.”

The lack of candour on the part of Ms Lim and Mr Low also cast “serious doubt” on their integrity, Justice Ramesh said.

The amount claimed against the defendants exceeds S$33.7 million, but the actual sum that they eventually have to pay will only be decided in the next phase of the trial.

If the WP MPs cannot pay, they will be deemed bankrupt, could lose their parliamentary seats, and will not be able to contest in the next General Election.

In a media statement, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) noted that the court has ruled that “some of the defendants had acted dishonestly and egregiously in their capacity as Town Councillors”.

“It found that the tender process in the Town Council had been subverted, related parties made money and public funds misused,” said HDB. “Other Town Councillors were also held to be in breach of their duties.”

HDB noted that the legal action was brought by an independent panel that AHTC had appointed. The panel was appointed after a court-appointed auditor, KPMG, found severe lapses and withholding of documents, it added.

“As public monies are involved, AHTC should take the appropriate steps to recover the monies misused,” said HDB, stating that it will study the matter further.

REMEDIES THAT PLAINTIFFS MAY PURSUE

Meanwhile, the full S$33.7 million claimed as losses by AHTC may not be what the town councillors and senior staff who were sued have to pay, based on the decision by Justice Ramesh.

While the actual amount that the WP MPs and other defendants eventually have to pay will be decided only in the next phase of the trial, Justice Ramesh said that not “every cent disbursed under the impugned contracts” is a loss to AHTC.

The judge noted that town councillors are custodial fiduciaries of the town council’s assets.

A fiduciary, in the Singapore context, is someone who owes a high duty of care to the principal — AHTC, in this case.

A fiduciary has a duty to act in good faith, to not make a profit out of this relationship, to not be in a position where their interests will conflict with their duty, and to not act for the benefit of themselves or any third party, according to the document.

Fiduciaries who are held liable can reinstate or reconstitute the principal to the way it was before, said Justice Ramesh. That means if AHTC’s assets are wrongly used, the town councillors can be ordered to reconstitute it as a form of remedy.

In terms of the compensation payable by the MPs, AHTC’s lawyers had argued that the S$33.7 million that had been paid out to FMSS and service provider FM Solutions and Integrated Services had to be returned.

But Justice Ramesh rejected this, saying “it does not necessarily follow that each and every cent disbursed under the impugned contracts is therefore a loss to AHTC”. “This would be to entirely ignore the nature of the breach, which involved entering into various contracts for the provision of services,” he added.

He noted that the services bargained for are what the defendants were obliged to procure.

Instead, Justice Ramesh said that the loss to AHTC should be the difference between the amount of money paid out by the town council and the value of the services it received.

He further ruled that the burden of proving the amount lost falls upon the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs had argued that the FMSS contracts are to be rescinded from the start. However, Justice Ramesh dismissed this, saying that the contracts are voidable but not void.

The plaintiffs can choose to void the contracts, and if they do, the benefits received by AHTC must be returned to the contractor, said the judge.

Source: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/ahtc-judgment-wp-mps-had-not-acted-honestly-and-tried-mislead-says-judge

Reference: https://www.supremecourt.gov.sg/news/case-summaries/aljunied-hougang-town-council-and-another-v-lim-swee-lian-sylvia-and-others-and-another-suit-2019-sghc-241

Reference Cache (pdf): http://tiny.cc/SGHC241
« Last Edit: October 12, 2019, 11:53:06 PM by greentara »