Featured News SPH Media lodges police report following probe into exaggerated circulation numbers issue

SPH Media lodges police report following probe into exaggerated circulation numbers issue

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Allen & Gledhill found that SMT had inflated its daily circulation numbers by 82,600, using data from August 2021. The figures included 49,000 bulk copies from the Newspapers in Education (NIE) fund that was reported but not distributed

SINGAPORE: Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Media Group has filed a police report after uncovering potential offences during its probe into the exaggeration of its circulation numbers.

The company has pledged full cooperation with the police, following the recommendations put forth in a 14-page report by its audit and risk committee that is in charge of investigating the inflated figures.

Inconsistencies in circulation data reporting first came to light during an internal review of processes conducted between September 2020 and March 2022, a period coinciding with the restructuring of SPH and the establishment of SPH Media Trust (SMT).

In January, SMT announced that several senior employees faced the consequences or left the company after discovering the issue. The audit and risk committee then launched a probe and sought assistance from legal advisers Allen & Gledhill, who engaged the accounting firm Deloitte for forensic analysis and discovery of relevant data.

Allen & Gledhill found that SMT had inflated its daily circulation numbers by 82,600, using data from August 2021. The figures included 49,000 bulk copies from the Newspapers in Education (NIE) fund that was reported but not distributed, 5,000 from a Y Deal, 15,000 from an X Barter deal, 1,900 school copies, 2,300 airline copies, 9,000 agency copies, and 400 copies from subscribers to all-in-one packages.

These figures accounted for approximately 10 percent of the reported daily average circulation.

The committee presented a 14-page report to the SMT board on Tuesday. The report stated that Allen & Gledhill deemed the actions taken against the employees and former employees in January to be “reasonably justified in the circumstances” and compliant with SMT’s policies.

A redacted version of the report, which can be accessed on SPH Media’s website, also concludes that there was no evidence implicating the journalism and editorial departments in the overstatement of circulation numbers.

The committee’s chairman, Max Loh, has clarified that the police report does not target specific individuals or entities. He added that it was not the committee’s role to determine the offences and said that the police could access the findings of the internal probe and the unredacted investigation report.

Mr Loh also said that the investigation report included interviews with over 10 individuals from SMT and SPH but did not include interviews with the four staff members who had already departed in January, as they had been interviewed during an earlier internal audit.

Regarding current staff involved in the matter, Allen & Gledhill found that they had acted under the instructions of their superiors and mistakenly believed that the practices directed by their superiors were acceptable within the company.

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