The police are investigating possible wrongdoings in relation to procurement at the National Library Board (NLB) after the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) flagged lapses its latest annual report.

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) referred the matter to the police for further investigations, at the AGO’s recommendation.

The report, which covers the 2014/15 financial year, found that NLB had weak controls in its procurement of electronic resources, after spending about S$7.30 million for that year to acquire and maintain its e-resources collection.

For instance, the AGO noted that NLB had procured electronic resources directly from specific vendors without any evidence of having considered other e-resources of similar nature, and did not have a robust system to verify vendors were sole distributors.

NLB said it acquired all its e-resources directly from various vendors because they were sole distributors, and standard operating procedures required its officers to confirm this with the e-resource owners. However, it found that 13 out of 29 procurement cases relied on scanned copies of letters from vendors, who have vested interests in the procurements.

“By procuring the e-resources without going through a proper process of sourcing, selection, evaluation and justification, NLB may not have availed itself of the best offer from the market and may be subject to allegations of bias, unfair and inappropriate procurement practices,” AGO said in the report.

The AGO said it found indications that the control weaknesses could have been “exploited and there were possible wrongdoings in relation to procurement of certain e-resources”. “Following AGO’s recommendation, the Ministry of Communications and Information has referred the matter to the police for further investigations,” it said in the report.

There were also several instances of lapses in tendering and management of revenue contracts, and poor management of contract variations, which raised concerns of whether principles of open and fair competition, and transparency had been upheld, noted the AGO.

Audit observations also revealed issues with related party transactions. In some cases, related parties were effectively given hidden subsidies as they were not charged or not charged below market rate for goods and services provided by public agencies, the AGO said

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