Auditor-General’s report finds numerous faults with multiple government agencies

Usually published in early July, this year’s report of the Auditor-General came out a lot later and we can see why — there seems to be quite a number of lapses found in government operations. 

Weak management of public funds, disregarded financial controls, failure to exercise adequate oversight of administration, late payment to contractors… the list goes on, really. It’s all a little TL;DR, so we’ve condensed it into bullet points for you.

 

Ministry Of Defence

  • Failed to provide significant CPF contributions for bonus paid out. The Full Savings Vested Bonus is a bonus payable to those who’ve completed 10 years of service, and MINDEF hasn’t been paying CPF contributions since the bonus was launched in 2007. 
  • MINDEF invested $50.26 million in a United States Real Estate Investment Trust exchange-traded fund without the approval of the board of trustees of the SAVER-Premium Fund. 

Solutions 

  • MINDEF promises to make required CPF contributions to affected members by August 2016.
  • MINDEF obtained covering approval from the Board of Trustees regarding the investment made, and will review their processes.

Ministry of Education

  • MOE didn’t ensure that Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and National University of Singapore (NUS) kept track of scholarship scheme recipients who failed to fulfill their scholarship obligations. 
  • 14 cases were found to have lacked follow-up by the universities; no letters were sent out to remind scholars of their bond obligations and the consequences of not fulfilling them. 
  • Letters of Demand imposing liquidated damages were sent out late — up to 22 months late. 
  • Inadequate controls to ensure tuition fee loans and study loans were promptly recovered. As of June 30 last year, the outstanding balance of loans due for recovery was $228.04 million. 
  • 58 loans were in default for at least two years.
  • MOE over-contributed $4.14 million over nine years to NTU’s sinking fund for replacement of MOE-funded building and facilities. 
  • Some facilities and buildings were funded twice due to duplicate and incorrect records in MOE’s building register.
  • MOE disbursed grants totalling $2.96 million to NTU and NUS for research projects without carrying out reviews to assess if there was satisfactory progress. 
  • Recipients of grants had not submitted project reports as required.

Solutions

  • MOE will have additional checks and work closely with universities to enforce serving of bonds by scholars.
  • MOE took steps to improve its review of long outstanding loans and issue guidelines on loan schemes to detail responsibilities of various parties on loan recovery.
  • MOE will work with NTU to recover excess amount disbursed and review the system of building registers.
  • MOE is working with key research funding agencies to develop an integrated grant management system for a more systematic tracking of research projects. 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

  • Irregularities in the MFA’s management of subscription of telecom services — no proper verification of invoices to ensure amounts billed and paid were correct.
  • Overpayments totalled $109,868. 
  • $80,744 was wasted on 28 mobile lines that were no longer needed. Eleven lines were not used for over two years. 

Solutions

  • MFA has since terminated the 28 mobile lines no longer needed. Processes to monitor the usage and review for mobile lines were put in place. 

Ministry of Home Affairs

  • Singapore Police Force (SPF) overpaid its Volunteer Special Constabulary (VSC) officers allowance amounting about $2.63 million. 
  • Deputy Commissioner of Police and Permanent Secretary approved a revised allowance for VSC officers without authorisation. 

Solution

  • SPF initiated action to amend the regulations to regularise overpayments. 

 
Ministry of Law

  • Public Trustee’s Office had inadequate controls over handling of deceased persons’ assets received from nursing homes. 
  • Discrepancies found in the recording of assets received from nursing homes. 
  • Lax review of logs carried out by its IT vendors on their servers to detect unauthorised activities. 
  • 44 accounts and access rights assigned to outsourced IT vendors were not removed when their services were no longer required. 

Solutions

  • Ministry of Law has since taken action to remove unnecessary accounts, tighten access rights granted to its IT vendors and install a monitoring tool to track their activities on the servers. 

Ministry of Manpower

  • Wastage of public funds — MOM bought a computer system for $432,407 but realised it could not be integrated into a current system. They left it unused for one and a half years. 
  • MOM failed to carry out a robust evaluation of the system before procuring it in the first place. 

Solution

  • MOM is currently exploring redeployment of the system’s assets for other uses. 

 

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