Managing partner of audit firm claims poor technical knowledge of audit matters.
The ninth witness in the City Harvest trial is Foong Daw Ching, the partner of Baker Tilly TFW LLC.
With his role as a church leader with accounting qualifications, Foong Daw Ching, partner in audit firm Baker Tilly TFW LLP revealed that he would respond to general questions from local churches from time to time, and would not charge for such advice unless what was required is very detailed.
DPP Mavis Chionh, in her examination-in-chief, questioned Foong on the process of a statutory audit. Foong explained that an engagement partner would be assigned to the client, along with an audit team, and the engagement partner would be the one to sign off on the audit report. Foong also stated that a managing partner of an audit firm would not normally overrule the decisions made by the engagement partner as the latter is professionally responsible and answerable for the audit report.
Foong Daw Ching testified that CHC was one of the largest clients of Baker Tilly/TFW. He gave evidence that he was the engagement partner for CHC followed by Joseph Toh, Tiang Yii and then Sim Guan Seng.
Chionh ran through some of the points brought up by Foong yesterday concerning some individuals from CHC consulting him on some matters. Foong said that Tan Ye Peng had approached him to inquire about the acquisition of church building property, related party issues and bonds.
Foong maintained that his knowledge on the above issues was not extensive and he had given general advice. He also revealed that he did not usually charge a fee on such basis.
Chionh brought out an email exchange between Serina Wee and Foong in which Wee asked Foong in the email if it was better to keep companies like Attributes and Xtron as separate entities from the church with a separate audit partner and manager. Foong's reply to Wee was that in the light of the National Kidney Foundation saga, it would be best that all the companies in the “CHC group” be handled by one engagement partner and audit manager. He said in the email that he would still be the consulting partner to all those companies. Chionh then asked him to explain why he had said that in his reply to Wee.
Foong's reply was that if the audits were handled by the same team, they would be privy to issues such as related party transactions. He also told the court that the term “consulting partner” was not an official one, he had said it just to give the CHC group some comfort that they could turn to him when needed.
Foong held himself out to be the consultant partner to the CHC group of companies, but sought to downplay his involvement in the audit and said he, as managing partner, could not override the decision of the engagement partner who handled CHC's audit.
For most part of Chionh's questioning, Foong did not seem to recall much of his interactions with CHC staff and the accused persons. With regards to advice on the investment of church funds, Foong revealed that he feared the topic and would leave such matters to the church management board, as with legality of matters.
Examination by the prosecution resumed at 2.30 pm.