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Police investigating PA employee’s reimbursement claims for Chingay 2017 expenses highlighted in AGO report: Minister Chan Chun Sing

Reimbursement claims for overseas purchases worth more than S$140,000 made by a former employee of the People's Association (PA) are being investigated by the police, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.

Speaking in Parliament last Tuesday (20 Nov) in response to Workers' Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Png Eng Huat's questions regarding the Chingay 2017 procurement, Mr Chan, who is also the deputy chairman of PA, added regarding the matter: “We will decide on further steps after the police complete their investigations.”

Previously, said Mr Chan, an independent investigation panel - which was headed by a senior officer in the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) - was convened in June this year to look into the issue, and that the panel has since completed its probe.

He said: "While there was no conclusive evidence that there was wrongdoing, there were concerns over the authenticity of some transactions."

The panel was tasked to investigate not only the overseas purchases made for costumes for Chingay last year, but also previous overseas Chingay purchases and payments.

Mr Png's questions revolved around several issues flagged by the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) audit report, which included lapses in the PA’s procurement for festive street light-ups.

According to the report, the tenders for two street light-ups – Mid-Autumn Festival 2016 and Chinese New Year 2017 – were awarded to the same overseas manufacturer since four years ago.

The overseas manufacturer took into account additional costs such as accommodation for its workers throughout their stay in Singapore, transportation charges for installation materials, and the provision of a site for assembling lanterns in a proposal it made for the Mid-Autumn Festival 2016 light-up.

PA, however, did not take into account the proposed additional costs on top of the tender price in its evaluation process when comparing the prices of the proposals. 

Mr Chan, however, highlighted that AGO had flagged this matter as an administrative lapse, adding that the event organiser was “well aware” of these additional costs because it paid for the expenses every year, which averaged S$34,000 for each event from 2014 to 2016.

He said: “The organiser has acknowledged the lapse and put in place measures to avoid its recurrence.”

Mr Chan further added that the PA’s internal audit had earlier detected the lack of compliance with standard procedures in relation to the overseas procurement for Chingay, and this was subsequently stopped in early 2017 before the recent audit made by AGO.

“PA acknowledges and takes a serious view of the observations by the AGO,” he said.

“We will continue to educate our staff and volunteers to improve the procurement practices.”