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A SUM of S$22.5 million in cash was handed to the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) after the Workers' Party (WP) won the by-election in Punggol East in January 2013.
Revealing this on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the amount - from the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council, run by the People's Action Party (PAP) - included project funds and sinking funds, among other items.
Mr Teo, who is also the PAP's first assistant secretary-general, was responding to claims by WP chief Low Thia Khiang on Saturday that the accounts for Punggol East had an accumulated deficit of S$282,000 when the WP took over.
During the WP's rally, Mr Low displayed a single page from the Punggol East's income and expenditure statement for April 2013 that showed this deficit. The statement was signed by two people, including Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council chairman Zainal Sapari.
Mr Teo, a candidate in Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC for this Friday's general election (GE) and whose six-member PAP team includes Mr Zainal, told reporters that the money handed over to the WP-run AHPETC was "fully accounted for" and had "no issues".
"Mr Low very dramatically showed one page of the accounts. There are over 20 pages. If you look at the whole set, we were very careful to hand over everything that was due to our residents here. We wanted to do right for them," said Mr Teo, adding that the WP did not raise any issues during the handover.
He noted that since then, AHPETC had never managed to submit an unqualified set of accounts. Mr Teo said the "real question" that the WP needs to answer is whether it had properly accounted for the S$22.5 million in cash.
Earlier in the day, Mr Zainal wrote on Facebook that Punggol East had been in "good financial health" and had a net surplus of S$21,363 at the point of takeover, after factoring in a sum of S$303,372 reimbursement claimable from the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) fund.
This fund, disbursed through the citizens' consultative committees, provides funding support for infrastrucutural and recreational facilities for the constituency.
"The truth is that the financial position was in surplus and Punggol East was in good financial health when the whole set of accounts that was handed over to AHPETC is read together. This information was provided to AHPETC at the handover," said Mr Zainal.
As at March 31, 2012, which was the last full-year audited accounts before the by-election, there was an accumulated routine fund surplus of S$804,945 for the Punggol East ward.
If there is a change of party after an election, the Town Councils Act requires that the entire routine fund surplus must be transferred to the sinking fund with the exception of town improvement projects committed at that point of time.
As such, S$782,563 was set aside from the routine fund surplus for committed town improvement projects, and the balance was transferred to the sinking fund.
He explained that, at the handover to AHPETC on April 30, 2013, the CIPC fund reimbursement was made known to AHPETC and this would give an actual net surplus of S$21,363.
At a separate interview, PAP organising secretary Ng Eng Hen said that the ruling party always kept very good audited accounts and the facts would speak for themselves.
"If (WP secretary-general) Mr Low agrees on the facts, he may have to issue a correction. I hope he is gentlemanly enough to accept that he was wrong in this regard," said Dr Ng.
Meanwhile, Mr Teo also described Charles Chong, the PAP's candidate for Punggol East who is challenging the WP incumbent Lee Li Lian, as an "experienced MP who has run a town council before".
Said Mr Teo: "My message to our friends and residents in Punggol East is this: We know there have been problems in the last three or four years. What we would like to do is put these problems behind us. Get a new fresh start and we will look after our residents well."
At the WP's rally on Sunday night, Mr Low reasserted that Punggol East had an operating deficit of over S$280,000 in April 2013 and said he was waiting for the PAP's response.