Among the financial and contractual lapses highlighted in the annual Auditor-General Office’s (AGO) report on government ministries and statutory boards, one might have slipped the sight of readers, among the many irregularities in how government departments and grassroot organisations procured their goods and services.
AGO noted that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) had outsourced the maintenance of its Work Pass and Employment Pass processing systems to an IT vendor, but did not include certain checks to detect unauthorised access to the data within the system.
The IT vendor effectively had access to change data on the systems, and would prepare the reports on its own activities.
AGO noted that the vendor could have intentionally left out unauthorised changes to the database without MOM’s knowledge.
Indeed, certain activities carried out by the vendor, including addition, modification and deletion of data were not included in the reports, when AGO conducted tests checks from May to November 2014.
Given the current urgency in the industry for more Work Passes and Employment Passes to be issued, does this lapse open an opportunity for illegal activity to streamline the processing of passes for foreign employees? What modifications to the database could have been made and were indeed made by the vendor?
MOM has thus far “informed AGO that it would strengthen its monitoring of the activities carried out by its IT vendor on the databases”. No information was provided on whether database integrity was compromised.
In addition, AGO also reported on inappropriate access given to the Employment Pass system, whereby MOM staff could have refunded or waived fees related to Employment Passes.
In its checks from January to August 2014, AGO identified two instances where extensions to Short Term Visit Passes were created and approved by the same MOM officer, without the system detecting the unauthorised transactions.
This article has been sent to MOM for comments. We understand that they might take some time to respond, given the long weekend.