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Auditor-General gives clean report on government finances, but finds repeated lapses in contract management

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At the Education Ministry, the AGO found 38 instances, amounting to S$0.78 million, out of 58 checks where works were carried out before approvals were obtained.

THE Auditor-General's Office (AGO) continued to find lapses in contract management among public sector entities, as well as gaps in management of research and development (R&D) grants.

While the AGO gave a clean opinion for the government's finances for the year, it nevertheless urged a strengthening of financial governance and controls for the public sector as a whole.

The government auditor found lapses in contract management in the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), the People's Association (PA) and the Ministry of Education (MOE). At the Education Ministry, the AGO found 38 instances, amounting to S$0.78 million, out of 58 checks where works were carried out before approvals were obtained. The auditor had raised a similar observation to the Ministry in a previous audit for fiscal 2014.

At SCDF, there were indications that records for 104 vehicle maintenance jobs out of 926 contracted out that were not authentic, and had instead been created and backdated. That cast doubt on whether the 926 jobs worth S$1.35 million were properly performed.

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The AGO also found weaknesses in information technology controls at the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, MOE and the Ministry of Defence. It detected laxity in financial controls at the PA and at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

Auditor-General Willie Tan Yoke Meng said in a statement that the public entities audited took the audit seriously and were committed to rectifying the lapses.

Still, "a number of observations reported this year are on similar lapses which I have highlighted in the last few years although the lapses involved different entities," the auditor said.

"Hence, more should be done to address these concerns so that the financial governance and controls of the public sector as a whole would be strengthened. To achieve this, every public sector entity needs to play its part in implementing effective controls to address the gaps."

The Ministry of Finance (MOF) said that close attention will be paid particularly to recurrent issues. Where warranted, investigations have been convened to go deeper into the issues raised, and disciplinary actions taken against officers found responsible for wrong-doing.

MOF said in a press release: "We are committed to stepping up efforts to address the issues identified by AGO. For instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs and PA have taken steps to address the financial controls lapses highlighted by AGO, and ensure that their officers comply with the rules."