The People Association (PA) has been questioned by the Auditor-General Office (AGO) in its report yesterday (17 Jul) over 4 quotations whose contract value totaled $129,400 for the Chingay Parade 2017 event last year.
AGO’s test checked on some of the overseas purchases and payments for costumes and accessories used in the Chingay Parade 2017 event. It said that it has discovered “serious weaknesses” which could be exploited.
In particular, AGO has alluded to possible fraud been committed, “The weaknesses included not adhering to procurement principles and weak controls over payments. There were also tell-tale signs on some supporting documents submitted for reimbursement claims which indicated that they might not be authentic.”
While organizing the Chingay Parade 2017 event, PA had posted Invitations to Quote for costumes and accessories in the government procurement system, GeBIZ, and concurrently obtained manual quotations for the same items from overseas vendors not registered under GeBIZ.
PA subsequently posted “no award” announcements in GeBIZ for the Invitations to Quote even though it had awarded the contracts to overseas vendors. But AGO noted that conducting parallel manual quotation exercises was not allowed under the Government Instruction Manuals.
“As obtaining manual quotations from overseas suppliers were not subject to the more stringent controls for calling quotations via GeBIZ, PA could be exposed to the risks of manipulation of bids as well as allegations of discriminatory practice and lack of transparency,” AGO said.
Cash sales receipts used for reimbursements have tell-tale signs
In addition, AGO also found that PA had allowed an officer to make overseas purchases amounting to $142,200 and to pay for them in cash or through a remittance agent. This officer subsequently claimed reimbursements using cash sales receipts and AGO found that some of these receipts submitted by the officer had tell-tale signs, which cast doubts on their authenticity.
“Thus, there was no assurance that the amount of reimbursement claimed by the officer was the actual amount of cash that was paid by the officer to the overseas vendors,” AGO said, alluding to possible fraud.
And to add to the intrigue, although the officer was accompanied by at least one other staff during the sourcing and purchasing trips, AGO found that he had made two additional personal overseas trips at his own expense so as to make purchases, settle final payments for earlier purchases and obtain cash sales receipts.
“Allowing the officer to make purchases and payments unaccompanied by other staff exposed PA to the risks of duplicate and inflated claims,” AGO commented.
PA informed AGO that since April 2017, it had stopped all overseas direct purchases by staff and procured the costumes and accessories for Chingay Parade through GeBIZ. As overseas purchases had been made for Chingay Parade since 2007, PA has accepted AGO’s recommendation to review past purchases and payments to ascertain if there were similar weaknesses and whether they had been exploited.
However, PA did not comment on the said officer nor the authenticity of the cash sales receipts mentioned in AGO’s report. Nor did it say if the officer had been the same person making the overseas purchases since 2007.