HDB rejects AHTC’s 3rd accountants? Foreign firm OK, local “No”?

HDB rejects AHTC’s 3rd accountants

I refer to the article “HDB rejects WP’s third nomination for AHTC accountants” (Channel NewsAsia, Jan 22).

It states that “The Workers’ Party (WP) has nominated a third set of accountants to look into the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council’s (AHTC) accounts, but they have been rejected by the Housing and Development Board of Singapore (HDB) as they were “not suitably qualified”.

Mr Low said Mr Teo and Mr Ng were both chartered accountants, have forensic experience in accounting and litigation support, have acted as expert witnesses, are members of Chartered Certified Accountants and also have law degrees.

However, HDB lawyer Aurill Kam said that the accountants did not have relevant expertise. Ms Kam also mentioned that a third accountant – Mr Sarjit Singh – was also put forth at 11pm on Thursday night and that there was little time to consider his qualifications. Mr Singh was not brought up earlier by Mr Low.”

As a resident of Aljunied, I can only say that I read the above with “utter amazement”!

“Not suitably qualified”?

According to Ardent Accounting’s web site – “Ardent is a firm of Chartered Accountants of Singapore established in year 2008 by a team of qualified professionals.

We have 8 partners with extensive experience and a large group of experienced and trained professional staff. Combined with our global network, our capabilities and resources allow us to provide you the support you need in the realms of audit, tax, accounting, business advisory, risk and governance, corporate recovery, litigation support, IT solutions and business set-up consultancy.

Kreston International

Ardent is a member of Kreston International, a global network of independent accounting firms. Kreston operates in 108 countries with 186 firms providing a resource of over 20,000 professional and support staff.

Kreston is the 13th largest global accountancy and a member of the Forum of Firms, an association of international networks of accounting firms that perform transnational audits and promote the consistent application of high-quality audit practices worldwide.”

HDB is expert & authority on “qualified” accountants?

Looking at the above information – since when has the HDB become the expert and authority in determining whether “accountants” are qualified or not?

“Silence” from the accounting professional and statutory bodies?

Shouldn’t this be the sole prerogative of the accounting professional and statutory bodies in Singapore?

As to “Ms Kam also requested that the accountants nominated be subject to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority’s (ACRA) Practice Monitoring Programme (PMP) – a regulatory instrument in promoting audit quality – which the first two accountants are not subject to.

She said that the PMP results still remain relevant as HDB’s request for a public accountant who can sign off on statutory audits is reasonable” – Ardent Accounting’s web site says that

Singapore Accountancy Awards 2014 winners “not qualified”?

In this connection, according to ACRA’s web site – “Public accountants that do not audit PIEs are inspected by practice reviewers employed by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (“ISCA”) and appointed by the PAOC. The reports from these inspections are submitted to the PMSC and PAOC as with all other PMP inspection reports.”

Foreign firm OK, local firm not OK?

With regard to “Ms Kam also reiterated the HDB’s request to nominate a major firm, saying that there was too little time to do due diligence on the newly-nominated accountants.

However, Mr Low said that the request was neither relevant nor necessary, adding that WP felt that since it was up to them to choose an accountant, there was no need to choose one from the big four accounting firms” – why does the HDB keep insisting on one of the big four international accounting firms?

Isn’t a local firm like Ardent Accounting good enough, relative to a foreign international firm?

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.