Auditor-General’s Office flags 9 government bodies, including agency run by Prime Minister’s Office, for lapses

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The Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) has flagged nine government bodies for lapses in finance, contract management and IT controls, in its recently released annual report for FY2017/2018.

Among lapses by several bodies, the Ministry of Defence was found to have overpaid a grass-cutting contractor by 0.2 million, while the People’s Association failed to get proper approvals for awarding contracts and also did not properly manage its welfare assistance schemes.

Here is a quick summary of the lapses the AGO found in the bodies that are managed by 8 ministries:

  • Ministry of Defence: Overpaid grass-cutting contractor by 0.2 million or 27% of total payment required; shared user accounts for procurement purposes; weaknesses in access rights management.
  • Ministry of Education: Inadequate oversight in contract management of school development projects; lapses in evaluation of construction and consultancy services tenders; poor oversight in IT systems of Edusave Endowment Fund, Edusave Pupils Fund and Post-Secondary Education Fund.
  • Ministry of Home Affairs: ICA operator not selected through competitive process and not charged rental of use of premises; SCDF created and backdated documents for audit; SCDF’s poorly managed vehicle manintenance contracts.
  • Ministry of Culture Community and Youth: People’s Association (PA) lapses in welfare assistance schemes management; PA failed to get proper approvals for awarding contracts and variations before works commenced and only received approval months or years after works completed; PA lapses in procurement and contract management for major events.
  • Ministry of Finance: ACRA privileged user activities were not logged.
  • Ministry of Transport: Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s port dues deviated from lawful rates.
  • Ministry of Trade and Industry: A*STAR delays in grant disbursements and settling of final accounts; A*STAR inadequately monitored industry contributions; A*STAR lapses in monitoring and reviewing of progress and final reports; A*STAR failed to obtain audit reports for grant expenses totalling $18.48 million.
  • Prime Minister’s Office: National Research Foundation (NRF) failed to instate framework that led to inconsistencies in grant management; NRF lax verification of fund requests; NRF failed to monitor audit reports; NRF lax in monitoring and reviewing of progress and final reports; NRF failed to instate procedures to recover unutilised grants from recipients.

Read the AGO’s full report here.

Last July, the AGO rapped the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Sport Singapore (SportSG) among other public sector bodies for lax financial controls, poor IT controls and inadequate oversight of development projects in its annual audit.

The year before that, the AGO flagged 12 government bodies for inadequate financial controls, weak governance of public funds, lack of oversight of external entities, and lapses in management of contracts. Both MINDEF and MOE were on the AGO’s list that year, as well.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) has since responded to the AGO’s latest report. Noting that the AGO has verified that “public funds have been properly accounted for,” MOF added:

“AGO’s findings related to contract management, IT controls and financial controls in some of the agencies help us to focus our efforts to do better in these areas. The heads of agencies have reviewed each case and are taking steps to address the findings. Close attention will be paid particularly to recurrent issues.

“Where warranted, investigations have been convened to go deeper into the issues raised, and disciplinary actions taken against officers found responsible for wrong-doing. In cases where there have been overpayments, these have either been recovered or recovery action has been initiated. Agencies have also verified that no confidential data has been compromised as a result of the lapses in IT controls.”

“We are committed to stepping up efforts to address the issues identified by AGO. For instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs and People’s Association (PA) have taken steps to address the financial controls lapses highlighted by AGO, and ensure that their officers comply with the rules.”

MOF added that it is committed to improving the management of grants and contract management, besides strengthening IT controls. Read the Ministry’s full statement here.