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Thursday September 3rd 2015

Petition to ask for proper accountability into financial lapses related to AGO audit before next election

Dear Singaporeans,

After a lavish gala celebration at the SG 50 national day, we are brought down to earth by a spate of issues that bother Singaporeans – particularly the absence of acknowledgement by our government on the recent ministerial lapses related to the AGO audit report last month.

The lapses are both glaring and shocking as Singaporeans have all along place their trust in a government that has enjoyed above-board corruption-free governance for a very long time.

We understand that no government will be 100% corruption-free but when a government decides to ignore seemingly serious financial lapses at ministerial level, it sent a very wrong signal to the people that it is unwilling to investigate and worse kept mum about such misgivings.

We thus hope our government will investigate thoroughly the AGO audit lapses and come up with a official statement to address the concerns of the people.

Any slip-up or cover-up of it’s own investigation will definitely have a bearing on the coming general election as the next government will have direct access to our reserves and funds – trust is a delicate issue and we want the next government to do their level best to root out any sign of organisational financial hiccups.

The AGO audit lapses include the following:-

1. MDA’s inadequate system for applicants whose grants were pre-screened and rejected. It was also lax in monitoring the submission of project deliverables by recipients of grants.

“There was no evidence that the MDA had taken prompt actions to follow up on these cases, which defeated the purpose of requiring grant recipients to meet the milestone deadlines,” the report for the financial year 2013/2014 said. (source – Today July 18)

2. The AGO also found lapses in the CPF Board’s monitoring and following up of erroneous Medisave claims. Out of 410 long outstanding erroneous claims that the AGO checked, no reminders were sent out for 79 over-claims outstanding for two years or longer that total S$101,500. (source – Today July 18)

3. The AGO also found that the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), which administers Goods and Services Tax (GST) refunds to tourists, made 266 refunds worth S$35,300 to 11 claimants who were not tourists. Duplicate GST refunds were also given out. Among the 29 duplicates costing S$4,400, 21 were made to persons who were not the original claimants (source – Today July 18)

4. The MOH was found to have continued making payment in financial assistance totalling S$64,000 to 99 persons for two to 32 months after these disabled elderly had died. The ministry said the mistakes were caused by errors in death data that have since been rectified and full reimbursement of overpayment has been made. (source – Today July 18)

5. The AGO’s audit of the National Parks Board’s development of Gardens by the Bay turned up documents that were allegedly backdated to give the impression that they had existed when the transactions took place in order to satisfy AGO’s queries. (source – Yahoo, July 17)

6. Lapses in MINDEF – The first lapse involved a piece of state land licensed to Sembawang Country Club for use as a golf course in 1994 for an “indefinite” period of time. This happened despite there being a compulsory three-year cap on the licence agreement according to land rules.

A further 6,842 sq m of land within the golf course was sublet by the club to a contractor in an unauthorised agreement. The land was found to contain discarded vehicles, heavy machinery and other waste, despite an agreement that the club was to have maintained the area. (source – Yahoo July 17)

7. Lapses at SCDF – A check of 78 transactions on official cash cards issued to Singapore Civil Defence Force officers for use on investigative trips showed 62 instances in which the cards were used on unofficial trips. (source – Yahoo July 17)

8. The AGO found irregularities in procurement and payment at Admiralty Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC).

Among these lapses, the CCC chairman was found to have approved his own claims, amounting to $114,767, on seven occasions. The AGO said in its report: “This is a clear conflict of roles as the approver of payments should not be approving his own claims.”

The chairman was involved in approving the awards of two contracts worth $32,000 and corresponding payments to a company where he held a senior management position. (source – MyPaper July 16)

The People’s Association (PA)-appointed Investigation Panel however found “no evidence of dishonesty” in the CCC chairman.

9. Lapses at Temasek Polytechnic – As at 31 March 2014, TP had invested $62.50 million in bonds. AGO’s test checks of five bonds totalling $61.50 million revealed that for all the five bonds, TP had proceeded to make the investments before obtaining the requisite approval from its Investment Committee. (source – extract from AGO audit report)

10. Lapses at WDA – The WDA did not ensure that its partners adhered to audit requirements for the use of grants, while there were over-disbursements of grants totalling S$170,100 and delays in recovery of unused grants, estimated at S$461,000, the AGO found. (source – extract from AGO audit report)

As seen from the above-mentioned selected lapses, some of them may be severe organisational misjudgement at worse but many Singaporeans were shocked for example that the CCC chairman was let off with a reprimand with no dishonesty found by a PA self-appointed investigation panel when clearly he has flouted the rules for his personal self-interest.

We urge Singaporeans concerned at such gross ministerial misgivings and more seriously the government’s intentional silence to sign this petition asking for a full thorough investigation into all the mentioned lapses in the AGO audit report and provide the public with it’s findings before the next general election is called.

Gilbert Goh

Editor’s note: you can sign the petition here.

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