AGO Caught NParks Creating & Backdating Documents

The Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) released the Auditor-General’s Report for the Financial Year 2013/14 on 17 Jul.

This year’s report which was submitted by Auditor-General Willie Tan Yoke Meng to President Tony Tan on 1 Jul and presented to Parliament on (15 Jul), highlighted lapses in the administration of grants, schemes and programmes, as well as instances of weak management of resources which resulted in wastage.

Among the ministries and statutory boards cited were the Ministry of Defence, Central Provident Fund Board, National Library Board, Media Development Agency and National Parks Board.

In the case of National Parks Board (NParks), AGO was so annoyed at an NParks officer’s actions in creating and backdating documents to pass audit and MND’s attempt to be lenient towards the said errant officer that AGO literally rebuked MND.

The case revolved around the development of Gardens by the Bay. This project was undertaken by NParks which is a statutory board under the purview of MND, Khaw’s ministry.

During the audit of the project, AGO found out that certain documents furnished by NParks upon AGO’s request could have been created and backdated to give the impression that they existed at the time when the relevant transactions took place.

AGO said in its report, “Creating and backdating documents to satisfy audit queries is a serious irregularity. It also casts doubts on the authenticity of other documents and information provided to AGO (by NParks).”

“AGO therefore recommended that NParks conduct an immediate investigation into the matter,” it added.

MND eventually did carry out an internal inquiry into the matter and confirmed that an officer, indeed, had created and backdated a total of 16 letters, purportedly issued by NParks to its suppliers to satisfy AGO’s audit queries.

The NParks officer also arranged with the suppliers to issue another 11 backdated letters, out of which 5 were created by the officer on behalf of the suppliers.

Plainly put, the NParks officer was creating “fictitious” documents which were not previously present when the relevant transactions took place. In a manner of speaking, the NParks officer was attempting to “cover” his tracks. Helping the suppliers to create their own letters to “furnish” to NParks was particularly appalling.

Concluding its enquiry, MND in its statement said that there was “no evidence to suggest that the integrity of the contract variations and payments had been compromised” for the contracts handled by the officer, despite the officer admitting to the creating and backdating of those letters.

The officer told MND that he had committed the acts to “regularise gaps” in the documentation of communications with the suppliers for “completeness of record”.

AGO disagreed with MND. AGO said that the officer was fully aware of what he was doing and knew that the documents were for audit purposes.

“His actions, if not discovered, would have misled AGO into concluding that the procurement processes were in order,” AGO rebuked MND.

“Therefore, AGO takes a serious view of such actions and does not see these as merely acts to regularise gaps in documentation.”

Finally, MND relented and informed AGO that it now takes a serious view of the irregularity and “would be taking appropriate disciplinary action against the officer”.

MND didn’t say what actions it will take.

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