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Workers’ Party calls for transparency on the interventions to correct lapses highlighted in AGO report

Workers' Party (WP) has called for transparency on the government's interventions that will be applied to correct and repair the damage done in the systemic lapses that had been highlighted in the Auditor-General's Office's report that was just published.

In the press release penned by Leon Perera, Deputy Chair of WP's Media Team and Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, the party pointed out that AGO has highlighted multiple lapses in public sector spending and governance totalling tens of millions of dollars. It believes these are matters of grave public concern and should be adequately addressed by the Government.

The party also stated that getting to the root cause of systemic lapses and instituting preventive and deterrent measures are critical in ensuring that public funds are not misspent.

Read: AGO report uncovers inadequate financial controls over Government operations

Expressing its concern, WP noted that Ministry of Education (MOE) has recurring lapses taking place in the ministry. In the latest AGO report, more than half of the scholars selected by the AGO for test-checks failed to fulfil their scholarship obligations to Singapore.

WP writes that S$511.49 million of tuition fee loans and study loans were given out to students of institutes of higher learning are outstanding as at 30 June 2015.

"In 2010, the AGO flagged out the formula used to calculate fees payable to the banks for perversely incentivizing the banks not to reduce outstanding loans. MOE said that it would review the formula and provided targets to do so each time the AGO followed up since 2010. But the review has still not been completed as at March 2016." wrote WP.

WP also noted another worrying trend about MOE's pattern of lapses in procurement, tender, and giving preferential access to a Related Party across several institutions.

It pointed out that the AGO found lapses at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in 2012, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic in 2013, and now Nanyang Polytechnic too.

Moving on to the Ministry of National Development, WP noted that AGO found the Housing Development Board (HDB) having long delays in making final payments to contractors, with some final payments delayed by up to 3.3 years. NParks was also flagged by the AGO for late payments in 2011.

"As pointed out by the AGO, late payments could be seen as an unfair business practice and could result in the Ministry paying more due to interest arising from late payments. Late payments also deter smaller contractors from bidding on government projects." wrote WP.

Highlighting the unusual solution by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) to amend the Police (Special Constabulary) Regulations (Cap. 235, Rg 3) to regularise its $2.63 million in over-payments to volunteer special constabulary officers over seven years.

WP wrote, "While VSC officers deserve recognition for their service, as enforcers of the law, retroactively changing the law to gloss over seven years of lapses makes a mockery of the rule of law. Not only is this highly irregular, it also does not adequately address the weaknesses in internal controls."

WP has stated that its MPs will be filing several questions for Ministers to answer at the upcoming Parliament sitting.

For the full press release, visit Workers' Party's website here.