In a report dated 3 July this year, the Auditor-General has revealed lapses in the spending of several ministries and government agencies, including, but not limited to, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), the Ministry of Education (MoE), and the People’s Association.
Among the lapses that were uncovered in MINDEF’s spending were “significant weaknesses in the management of rights” granted to users of the Ministry’s Electronic Procurement System (ePS), according to the report.
It was found that the “system owner and all of the five units audited” had failed to conduct “periodic reviews” on user access rights as stipulated by the “Government Instruction Manuals” and MINDEF’s internal instructions, and that MINDEF had delayed removing access rights that are not required for 41 of 219 user roles that were inspected.
The Auditor-General warned that such weaknesses have the potential to compromise the security and safety of the system, and will in turn increase “the risk of unauthorised procurement activities”, on top of putting the integrity and confidentiality of data contained in the ePS at stake.
Additionally, such weaknesses makes it “difficult to pinpoint who had performed a particular activity” and to subsequently “hold the person accountable for the activities” that had taken place, on top of opening the possibility for users of those accounts to “circumvent” certain regulations, such as the roles between “the requestor and approver of purchase”, and “the approver of purchase and the approver of the receipt of goods”.
MINDEF has noted that disciplinary actions have been taken against three of the four users, while the fourth user had left the service.
Additionally, MINDEF has also told the Auditor-General that it will “continue to educate and emphasise to users the importance of safeguarding IT accounts” and take “disciplinary actions for non-compliance”.
MINDEF will also enhance the system to prevent sharing of accounts, according to the report.
On top of the above, MINDEF has also been flagged with “overpayments of grass-cutting fees” over the period of six years, as a part of the management of a contract involving integrated buildings and infrastructure maintenance.
According to the report, the total overpayment was “approximately $0.2million […] of $0.7million.
MINDEF’s facilities management agent (FMA) and MINDEF’s contract manager, the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), which was responsible for ensuring that the services have been carried out and to ensure that accurate reports were made before payment was made to the contractor, had failed to detect the repeated monthly overpayment.
“The repeated failures to detect the errors made by the contractor cast doubts on whether the FMA and DSTA had carried out their duties diligently,” the report said.
The ministry has informed AGO that the overpayment will be recovered from the contractor after the amount has been determined. Contractual penalties will also be imposed on the contractor for over-claiming and the FMA for failing to check the claims, according to Channel NewsAsia.