“Over the years, the AGO has found sad instances of over payments, payments without evidence that goods and services were delivered, duplicate payments and in one instance amounting to $18.6 million, and etc in many ministries and organs of states it audited,” said Png Eng Huat, Member of Parliament (MP) for Hougang single-member constituency in Parliament on Thursday.
Mr Png, who is also one of two vice-chairman of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), was responding to the motion filed by Minister of National Development, Khaw Boon Wan.
Mr Png said the WP accepts the Auditor General report on its town council which had been found “to have erred”.
“I am certain AHPETC will not be the last as well because good corporate governance is a work in progress,” he said after highlighting a list of shortcomings found by the AGO in its annual audits of other organisations.
“The Workers’ Party takes the AGO findings very seriously,” Mr Png said. “We have acknowledged our shortcomings in certain areas as well as defended our actions in others. On any other given day, this report may read like a typical AGO report on any entity under audit but today the spotlight is on AHPETC and we will explain the issues to the public.”
But first, Mr Ping took the House through the shortcomings of various government agencies and departments.
He cited how the AGO had found that a government agency had issued purchase orders to the term contractor only after the contractor had started the work.
This was a similar charge leveled at the WP town council by PAP MPs.
Mr Png added,
“AGO also revealed that 10 statutory boards did not present their FY 2006/07 annual reports to Parliament within the six-month time frame and three of these boards had also been late the previous two year. One of them did not even present its audited financial statements to Parliament for the previous two financial years.”
Mr Png also revealed how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was cited for not having complied with Government procurement principles of transparency, open and fair competition, and value for money when an overseas mission was audited.
“The Public Service Division was also flagged for informing a bidder that it had secured a contract worth $455,000 13 days before the Tender Board made the award decision,” Mr Png said.
“Some of these lapses were small in financial values while others were serious and the list goes on. Like what the ministers said yesterday, in some country, the CEO would take a deep bow, apologise, and resign but I guess this is not in our culture.”
Mr Png then went on to explain various issues raised by the AGO, one of which was that AHPETC did not have “a system to monitor arrears of conservancy and services charges accurately and hence there is no assurance that arrears are properly managed”.
The Hougang MP said this was not exactly true.
“We have explained to AGO that AHPETC does have a system to track every financial transaction in a resident’s account including HDB grants, monthly S&CC, payments, penalties, legal costs, and interests, if any, dating back to 1996 if the residents are from Hougang,” he said.
“We have also explained how these S&CC payments are collected and uploaded into our financial and accounting system. Every transaction via cash, credit card, cheque, NETS, internet banking and inter-bank GIRO, is identified and posted into the respective resident’s record in the Accounts Receivable and General Ledger at the end of the day or whenever the collection agencies inform us. This has allowed AHPETC to monitor the arrears situation of an individual account ‘live’, up to date, and on demand.”
Mr Png’s main point in his speech, however, seems to be how it is a waste of public funds for a new town town council to have to spend funds to develop its own computer system.
“It is a waste of public funds for an incoming administration to develop a new computer system that does essentially the same functions as the previous system, which was also develop with public funds,” he said.
“The old system at Aljunied Town Council cost over $20 million, hardware and software, split among the other PAP town councils,” Mr Png said, referring to the computer system developed by the 14 PAP town councils which was later sold to a PAP-owned company, Action Information Management (AIM) for S$140,000.
“AHPETC has spent over half a million dollars just to replicate what the old system could do and we still have a way to go,” Mr Png told the House. “Isn’t that a waste of resources and public funds? Setting up a centralized computer system will certainly safeguard residents’ interest and money, no doubt.”
You can read Mr Png’s speech here.