When cross-examined by defence lawyers over the definition of “improper payments” made by the Workers’ Party MPs, the executive director of Singapore’s accounting firm KPMG revealed that project management fees, site inspection and overtime payment are “improper services”.
At the ongoing trial of WP MPs, Singapore KPMG’s CEO Owen Hawkes was summoned as a witness by the government-led prosecution. The head of KPMG said that he expect the Opposition-held town council employees to work for free in these services, and admitted that he does not understand the complexity of the project anything beyond the wording in the tender. Owen Hawkes said he did not conduct even a single site survey of any of the project, some worth more than S$8 million each. When told that the previous ruling party PAP town councils and all other PAP town councils similarly paid for overtime payment and site inspection labour, the director was stumped and admitted that the defence lawyer is correct”:
“Defence Lawyer: More importantly, the town council’s predecessor, the PAP town council were also charged similar fees for such works by its managing agent, CPG. Not only did the previous town council and managing agent, but also the successive council and managing agent – the four people who dealt with the project on the ground all considered these project management services. But you reviewing the project documentation thought otherwise?
Owen Hawkes: That’s correct and it wouldn’t be the first case where a client has disagreed with an accountant’s definitions…Our view was that this fell under basic services, at least in part… The mere scale of the project was not sufficient, and that it depended on the nature of what’s being done.
Defence Lawyer: So size means nothing?”
The court trial then revealed that KPMG had wrongfully lumped overtime payment as “improper services”, when the services were rendered during the holiday period of Chinese New Year:
“This amount comprised $7,322 for general overtime and $1,668 for inspections during Chinese New Year amounting to $1,668. KPMG deemed them as “improper” because these services should have been considered as part of the standard management fees payable by the town council. The inspections were required during the festive period because the council wanted to ensure that waste was being managed and cleared expeditiously. He added that special approval had been given, and recorded in the minutes of a meeting with the council’s chairman, for the payments.”
The KPMG director then indicated that the town council managing agent FMSS, should have worked for free when their employees had to work extensive overtime hours to handle the government audits.
The 3 WP MPs are on a civil suit trial lodged by a nameless and faceless “independent panel” appointed by the ruling party PAP. The persecution is part of dictator Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s grand plot to retrieve the opposition-held Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC constituency. If found guilty, the 3 WP MPs will have to pay S$33 million in compensation, which will lead to bankruptcy and the subsequent loss of their MP seats.