In a reply to a ST Forum letter today (3 Aug), a spokesperson from the Ministry of Finance explained that majority of the lapses highlighted in the recent Auditor-General's Report were not "criminal in nature".
"The vast majority of the lapses reported by the AG's Office over the years are not criminal in nature and do not warrant being brought to court. Most are administrative or procedural lapses, brought about mainly by a lack of awareness, carelessness or poor supervision," the spokesperson said.
"In such cases, where appropriate, internal disciplinary actions are taken against officers found responsible."
However, in the event that there are suggestions of corruption, fraud or other criminal wrongdoing, these will be referred for police investigation, he added.
"If there is sufficient evidence against the officer, he/she will be charged in court. If found guilty, the officer faces the full measure of the law."
In his reply, the spokesperson only mentioned the case of a RSAF engineer being referred to CPIB for investigation. He did not say if the PA officer highlighted in the recent AGO report has also been referred for further investigation.
AGO: PA officer submits reimbursement claims which "might not be authentic"
In the recent 2017/18 report, AGO’s test checked on some of the overseas purchases and payments for costumes and accessories used in the Chingay Parade 2017 event organized by the People's Association (PA).
In particular, AGO has alluded to possible fraud been committed by an officer, "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."
AGO found that PA had allowed the 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.
After the AGO report was released, the media approached PA for comments. PA would only say that the said officer has left PA.
Close relationship between PAP and PA
Incidentally, though PA is only a government statutory board, it enjoys a very "close" relationship with the PAP, the ruling party.
In 2009, then Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew at a public dialogue proudly told the audience that the Chinese had been sending teams of PRC officials to study Singapore for many years. To illustrate a lesson the Chinese learnt about Singapore’s political system, he said:
"They (delegates from China) discover that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has only a small office in Bedok. But everywhere they go, they see the PAP – in the RCs (residents’ committees), CCCs (citizens’ consultative committees), and the CCs (community clubs)." – Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, The Straits Times 30 December 2009.
And of course, RCs, CCCs and CCs are grassroots organizations (GROs) which come under PA.