Friday, May 9, 2008

More Govt Lapses

This latest revelation of public fund mismanagement is strangely reminiscent of the MSK debacle.

This Public Accounts Committee (PAC) reminds me of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) set up by the MHA to investigate into MSK’s escape. The PAC comprises a group of Members of Parliament that acts like the "Audit Committee" of the Government.

“Acts” is the operative word as it really has no real authority or expertise to conduct audit checks. In fact, they merely consider the Auditor-General's Report, and examine the Government Financial Statements and other accounts which are presented to the Parliament.

This is of course not the first time we are hearing of this committee.

It is really uniquely Singapore for government watchdog groups comprising of ruling party members.

In the first revelation of public fund mismanagement, it was positively constructed as lapses caught in time and corrected. For MSK, it is lucky that his escape uncovered lapses due to Singaporean’s complacency, and this is duly corrected as well.

End of the day, we are still left wondering if there were more alarming lapses that have not been revealed. We all remember how some golden taps unmasked sordid misappropriation of charitable contributions at the NKF.

Will glass panels be the downfall of the supreme court?

$1.5m of govt fund mismanagement uncovered by public accounts
By Valarie Tan, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 08 May 2008 2354 hrs

SINGAPORE: The Health Ministry overpaid nearly S$180,000 of financial
aid to people without realising they had died.

This was one of public fund lapses uncovered, according to a six-page
report by the Public Accounts Committee, a parliamentary watchdog which
scrutinises the annual financial statements of government bodies.

The report highlighted the various lapses of three government ministries, a
statutory board and the Supreme Court.

The Health Ministry was particularly cited for overpaying S$178,150 of financial aid to beneficiaries who had died. After being informed of the lapse, the ministry said it had since recovered S$85,200.

However, the rest remains unclaimed since the policy is not to recover payouts made up to 3 months of a person's death.

The ministry said it will review its policy of allowing a grace period, and
has since agreed to work with the Ministry of Home Affairs to obtain death
records of beneficiaries on a monthly basis.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also found to have S$1.56m of unclaimed medical bills. These were incurred since 2003, during three overseas missions. The Ministry says it is currently filing the claims to its insurance company.

The report also uncovered unnecessary expenditure of S$30,789 by the Supreme Court for replacing glass panels. Administrators have since recovered the amount from the contractors.

The Manpower Ministry was also found to have made excessive advances to a building management agent. The ministry said the law does not allow it to claim interest on the excessive advances paid.

However, a new contract, effective 2006, states that payments can only be
made after works are carried out by contractors. Other safeguards, such as a
banker's guarantee, are also in place to make sure advances to contractors can
be recovered.

The InfoComm Development Authority was found to have mismanaged cash surpluses.

Under the current legal system, not all government bodies are required to be inspected by the Auditor-General.

But the latest report recommends an expansion. So the Auditor-General will
look into 18 statutory boards in the coming financial year, an increase from the
previous 13. - CNA/ir

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