On Tuesday (16 July), the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) released its annual report, an audit of the government’s accounts for the 2018/2019 financial year. The report looks at the financial statements of all ministries and eight organs of state as well as nine statutory boards, four government funds, four government-owned companies, and three other accounts.
Several ministries were flagged by AGO for lapses in their finances including the Ministry of Defence (MINFED), Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Development (MND) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).
In the report, the AGO noted irregularities a ‘significant’ number of procurement and contract management works under MND, specifically citing a contractor who submitted 49 out of 71 work orders under start rate items amounting to S$250,000.
Star rate item require three quotations from different suppliers to be provided to the managing agent who will then evaluate the quotations and recommended a supplier to the MND for approval.
The AGO were dubious over the authenticity of quotations submitted in relation to those star rate items which were paid for between April 2016 to March 2018. AGO therefore recommended for MND to refer the matter to the police which they did, said the report.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) under MND was also scrutinised by the AGO where, again, irregularities were noted in quotations relating to star items.
According to the report, one of URA’s infrastructural projects revealed irregularities in 4 out of 17 contract variations involving star rate items approved during the period June 2017 to September 2018.
It notes that AGO had concerned over the authenticity of 9 out 16 quotations obtained for those four contract variations. The total estimated value of the four contract variations amounted to $55,000.
In the case of URA, payments for these variations have yet to be paid. Still, the AGO recommended that the URA look into those questionable documents and make a police report if necessary.
AGO’s report noted that the URA has in fact filed a police report on the matter, adding that it would also independently re-evaluate the value of those variation works before any payment is made.
The question here is given that police reports have been filed over these lapses only after the AGO revealed them during the course of the audit, what sort of control measures do these bodies have in place after all these year to detect such lapses?
Also, just how much oversight and responsibility, does the Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong have over the ministry under his purview?