FMSS majority owner How Weng Fan: “You have to consider Mr Low’s position, business is not just business.”
How clarified some of her previous statements.
Senior Counsel Davinder Singh was not present on Oct. 30 of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) trial, but How Weng Fan showed up for her second day on the witness stand.
To set the scene, here are the following lawyers who asked questions of How:
- Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, defence lawyer for the three WP MPs and two former AHTC town councillors.
- Leslie Netto, defence lawyer for How, her late husband Danny Loh, and their Managing Agent company FM Solutions & Services (FMSS).
- David Chan, plaintiff’s lawyer representing AHTC.
Phone call between How and KPMG recorded by How
Before Rajah could begin cross-examining How, Chan rose to speak.
He requested to ask an additional question of How, despite stating yesterday (Oct. 29) that he had no further questions for her following Davinder’s cross-examination.
Justice Kannan Ramesh granted his request. Chan then referred to the 2016 telephone conversation between How and audit firm KPMG.
Portions of the conversation was brought up by Davinder during his cross-examination of the previous day (Oct. 29).
The conversation included How stating that Workers’ Party MP Sylvia Lim was an “inexperienced” town council chairman.
It also included the pressure How and her husband Danny Loh went through to set up FM Solutions & Services.
Chan asked who recorded the conversation and turned it in for evidence.
How said that she was the one who recorded the conversation. She also disclosed the transcript of the conversation during the proceedings.
After a question by Justice Ramesh, How clarified that the conversation was automatically recorded by the phone system in her office.
She also said that she did not inform the KPMG representative that the recording was taking place at the time.
Upscaling of HTC’s computer system
How agreed with Lim’s statement that the upscaling of the Hougang computer software system took place in June 2011.
Rajah asked about a report that How submitted to Lim related to the upscaling of Hougang Town Council’s (HTC) computer system, following the withdrawal of AIM and the existing computer system.
How explained that she was seeking Lim’s approval to procure necessary hardware, peripherals and licenses to upscale the HTC system to fulfil the needs of a GRC. Said How:
“When we knew from Jeffrey (Chua, former General Manager of Aljunied Town Council) that AIM is going to terminate for sure the TCMS (Town Council Management system), the elected members knew we could not wait upscaling the HTC anymore.”
How added that she had to borrow a larger server box from HTC’s computer vendor, SNI, as the one she indented for would only be delivered a few months later.
Chan then objected to Rajah’s line of questioning, and said that nothing in How’s affidavit contradicts his client’s own position, therefore it was not a subject for cross-examination.
Rajah disagreed, and said that he is entitled to ask the witness questions about the case, and if he did not ask, they would not be able to ascertain her position.
Justice Ramesh allowed the question to stand, and said:
“If How’s position is consistent with your client’s position, there’s really nothing to challenge as it were, which is the purpose of cross.”
Rajah replied that cross-examination was also intended to elicit evidence to support his client’s position. Lim, his client, was also in the courtroom, listening to the proceedings.
Request for information as a contingency plan
He then asked How about a letter she sent to Jeffrey Chua on May 13, 2011. Said Rajah:
“What were you asking for in this letter and what was the reason for this request?”
How said that ex-WP chief Low Thia Khiang had relayed instructions to her from Lim to start obtaining financial data and other information from Aljunied Town Council, such as names and block numbers, as well as relevant contracts that needed further scrutiny.
How elaborated that this was related to Low’s experience when taking over HTC in the 1990s.
Back then, the information he required was provided “very late”. Said How:
“Here Mr Low has this contingency plan just in place … we’re put in this position of not having a computer system. We wanted to obtain the information first.”
Jeffrey Chua also knew of the new managing agent, waiver of tender
Netto went next. He began by repeating Davinder’s question about the waiver of tender of the first Managing Agent contract in 2011, and asked How if she wished to explain her position.
How said that the decision to waive a tender was made by the elected MPs and appointed town councillors. She added that the situation was “urgent” as CPG had said they wanted to leave.
After a question from Netto, How said she did not agree that two months was “enough time” to call for a tender.
How also said that Chua had spoken to her on May 13, 2011 asking her about a new managing agent for the town council.
How said yesterday, Oct. 29, that she did not inform the town council about the waiver for the first managing agent contract despite her appointment as Deputy Secretary of AHTC.
But she pointed out that this meeting showed that Chua was aware of the new managing agent and therefore the waiver of the tender as well. Said How:
“He spoke to me on 13 May, he knows the new team is going for a new MA. So he should be advising the TC on whether to get a tender or not.”
After a question from Justice Ramesh, How clarified that she did not advise the town council on the tender, but Chua also knew and it “should” have been his position to do the same.
More than business
Next, Netto asked about a statement Davinder had made in court on Oct. 29.
Referring to How and Loh’s setting up of FMSS as a corporate entity, he said:
“Ms How, you are now in business and as they say, business is business.”
Responding to Netto, How said:
“When Mr Singh asked business is business…until you come to face Low who comes to you and persuaded you and recollected all those times we were at HTC, all the difficulties, challenges and prejudices faced, business sometimes is no longer business.”
How added that she had experienced “endless” problems from the authorities and the press, and when Low asked her to take on the greater challenge of running a GRC, it would entail larger challenges. Said How:
“So you have to consider Mr Low’s position, business is not just business.”
No certainty that FMSS would be awarded contract
Netto then asked about FMSS’s Letter of Intent, and that How had asserted she was never told with certainty that she would be allocated the contract.
“We were taking on a liability and risk. We have formed a company to take this on and we need the confirmation in writing from the client.”
She added that the letter was needed for things like buying insurance, and was an important piece of documentation. How said that Low and Lim did not respond to the letter for two weeks.
The trial continues in the afternoon of Oct. 30.
Top image adapted from pics by Matthias Ang taken on Oct. 17, 2018.
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