Singapore— Two ministries mentioned by the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) in its latest annual audit report have vowed to take immediate action to address issues raised in the report concerning insufficient checks for the disbursement of grants.
Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reported that the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said on July 16, Tuesday, that they would act immediately on the findings in the AGO 2018/2019 annual audit report and that even with processes in place in the two ministries for approving or renewing grant programmes, the checks for the disbursement of these grants were inadequate.
The grants in question are those pertaining to social initiatives managed by the MOH and the MSF which give funding to voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs).
According to the report, there are “a significant number of instances” that the AGO found wherein the funding approval occurred after the funding period had already begun.
The report reads, “There were also instances where the grant was approved for payment or disbursed before funding approval was obtained or before an agreement had been entered into,” and mentioned mistakes in the computation of the money that had been disbursed.
Test checks found examples of these in the two major initiatives of the MOH. In these examples, the MOH paid out erroneous amounts.
For the MSF, insufficient date checks in an IT system may have been the cause of over-disbursement in one of the ministry’s major programmes.
The amount of S$469 million was disbursed by the MOH under its operating subvention programme in 2016/17 and 2017/18. This programme disburses grants to VWO’s, which includes subsidies for patients who are eligible.
When the records of 71,113 patients were analysed, it was found that the disbursements related to 2,669 patients’ records could have possible errors, with 179 of them coming from patients who had passed away, and the best containing means-tested subsidy rates which varied from the records of the MOH.
In the case that all 2,669 records were wrong, this would have resulted in an over payment of more than S$4 million, as well as underpayments of S$3.84 million in a little over two years.
The AGO also highlighted the possibility of over payment of grants by MOH, since claims made by VWOs for overlapping types of service for the same patient enrolled in the programme.
The report read, “For example, there were instances of claims for a patient staying at a nursing home and also claims for meal delivery service to his residence for the same patient on the same day. The claim period for these overlapping services ranged between one month and about two years.”
The report from the AGO also drew attention to lapses in monitoring of the requirements for funding.
“Where documents such as audited financial statements were submitted by VWOs for the operating subvention programme, AGO noted that there was no evidence that MOH had reviewed them for a significant number of cases.”
The two ministries issued a joint statement in response to the findings in the latest AGO annual audit report, recognizing the need for stronger controls.
“AGO’s in-depth thematic audit has found that MOH and MSF have established processes in place for the design and setup, evaluation and approval, disbursements, monitoring and review, and cessation of social grants.
However, there is a need to strengthen controls in areas such as ensuring timely funding approvals, verifying disbursements, and monitoring performance indicators of grant recipients.
Both MOH and MSF are taking immediate action to address the concerns raised by AGO, including working with relevant VWOs to rectify over-disbursements and under-disbursements.”/ TISG