AGO EXPOSES GOVT MINISTRIES, STAT BOARDS FOR WASTING PUBLIC FUNDS

The Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education were among the government bodies criticized by the Auditor-General’s Report released today for lapses in the management of public funds.

“Significant amounts of grants are disbursed every year for various Government programmes and projects,” wrote Auditor-General Willie Tan. “As public funds are involved, it is important that adequate controls and monitoring mechanisms are in place to track the use of grants and to monitor that grants disbursed have achieved their intended purposes.”

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
The Ministry of Education was flagged for lapses regarding the administration of grants, with a total of S$232,900 in Advanced Elective Module grants allocated to eight schools between January 2011 to August 2013 was not used, according to AGO estimates. Most of these unused grants were retained by the schools in a common pool of funds, which could result in the use of such grants for purposes not intended under the scheme,” the AGO said. The allocation of such grants in advance without proper mechanisms to track their use and to recover any excess “shows laxity in compliance with MOE’s instructions, and more importantly, weak management of public funds. The ministry has since put in place controls to ensure the proper use of the AEM grants.

MINISTRY OF HEALTH
The Ministry of Health had an overpayment of S$2.07 million between FY2010/11 and FY2012/13, due to errors in the computation of rental subvention to Restructured Hospitals and Institutions, the AGO found. The MOH has since rectified the errors.

PEOPLE’S ASSOCIATION
The People’s Association had “numerous errors and omissions” in the updating of disbursements from the Citizens’ Consultative Committee ComCare Fund. As a consequence, PA obtained excess funding from the Social and Family Development Ministry amounting to S$84,394 over two years.

NATIONAL RESEARCH FUND
The majority of test-checks conducted on projects awarded from 2007 to 2013 under three grant schemes administered by the NRF – the Proof-of-Concept (POC) Grant Scheme, the Competitive Research Programme (CRP) Funding Scheme and the NRF Fellowship – revealed laxity in reviewing progress reports submitted by grant recipients and in taking follow-up action when projects did not meet specified milestones, the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) said. As a result, there was no assurance that the intended objectives of the grant schemes had been achieved. Such lapses could lead to wastage of public funds. The amount disbursed under the three schemes as of the end of 2013 was S$301.2 million, according to the report.

SINGAPORE WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
The WDA did not ensure that its partners adhered to audit requirements for the use of grants, while there were over-disbursements of grants totalling S$170,100 and delays in recovery of unused grants, estimated at S$461,000.

INFOCOMM DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE
The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore used funds totalling S$9.3 million from the Ministry of Communications and Information and the Ministry of Finance for two projects – the revamp of the Science Centre’s Hall of IT Exhibition and the development of the Singapore e-Government Leadership Centre – without approval from the ministries.

INSTITUTE OF TECHNICAL EDUCATION
The AGO said it found irregularities in the award and management of contracts for the appointment of a cafeteria operator and school operator at ITE, where the institute did not adequately monitor and enforce its operators’ fulfilment of contractual requirements, the AGO said.

NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT AGENCY
The AGO found that the NEA did not call revenue tenders for the sale of scrap steel recovered from three of its incineration plants when their agreements expired between 2006 and 2012. Instead, the agency continued to sell the steel scrap to the contractor based on the original contract price, but “there was no evidence that NEA had properly assessed whether the original contract price was still reasonable and fair”, the AGO said.

NATIONAL PARKS BOARD
“The Auditor-General’s Office’s test-checks revealed a general lack of documentation, failure to obtain approval and laxity in control over contract variations by NParks in managing the development of the Gardens By The Bay project”, which has an estimated total contract value of S$1.06 billion, the AGO said.

JURONG TOWN CORPORATION
In its audit of the construction and consultancy services contracts for the International Cruise Terminal undertaken by JTC – worth a total of S$510.18 million – the AGO found that approvals of 87.1 per cent of variations were not obtained from the relevant authority before works were carried out, while payment on the variations were S$340,000 higher than those based on contractual rates. JTC also did not carry out assessments on whether fees were reasonable before engaging consultants to provide new services, the AGO said. JTC said it had obtained in-principle approvals for urgent variations, but these were not documented.

NATIONAL POPULATION AND TALENT DIVISION
In reviewing the procurement of event managements services for two overseas events held in 2013 and 2014, with a total original value of S$6.79 million, the AGO found the the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) had not checked that the prices of goods and services, totalling S$1.51 million, procured by its vendors on its behalf were reasonable.

SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC
SP sub-leased a land parcel at nominal rent to a related party, and waived a substantial amount due from this party without carrying out proper evaluation, the AGO noted.

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