SINGAPORE: The Court of Appeal has found Workers’ Party leader Sylvia Lim and former party secretary-general Low Thia Khiang liable for negligence in the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) payments process, but cleared WP chief Pritam Singh over this issue.
This is the latest update on a long-running civil trial over the alleged misuse of S$33.7 million (US$25 million) of town council funds by the WP leaders and town councillors who helmed AHTC at the time.
In a judgment issued on Friday (Jul 7), Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said the court found Ms Lim and Mr Low liable to AHTC for negligence in permitting control failures to persist in the town council’s payments process.
Others who were found liable for negligence were managing agent director Ms How Weng Fan and her late husband Danny Low.
Then-AHTC councillors Mr Chua Zhi Hon and Mr Kenneth Foo, along with Mr Singh, were cleared over the payments process.
The appeals were heard by a five-judge panel comprising the Chief Justice, Justice Judith Prakash, Justice Tay Yong Kwang, Justice Woo Bih Li and Justice Andrew Phang.
The issue of damages will be argued at another tranche of the trial.
The latest judgment comes after the Court of Appeal reversed several of the findings of the trial judge, who in October 2019 found Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Ms Low liable for breaching different types of duties in the handling of about S$33.7 million in town council funds.
Among other things, the Apex Court found that the town councillors and employees did not owe fiduciary or equitable duties to AHTC,
The court also held that they had acted in good faith in the award of various contracts on behalf of AHTC.
However, the Apex Court also found that the town councillors and employees were grossly negligent in implementing AHTC’s payments process, which led to the persistence of control failures in the system.
This was because the involvement of conflicted parties and the absence of safeguards created an inherent risk of overpayment.
The court also held that Ms Lim was liable for negligence over AHTC’s awarding of a contract to Red-Power Electrical Engineering. This was after she failed to prove that she had acted in good faith by choosing not to renew existing contracts at significantly cheaper rates.
This story will be updated.