Lapses found in Singapore govt's financial records

The statement followed the Auditor-General's Office yearly report issued earlier on July 22. - ST FILE

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN): The Ministry of Finance (MOF) on Thursday (July 22) said it takes a serious view of irregularities in records that public agencies submit for audit, and stressed that the Government has no tolerance for fraud and corruption.

The statement followed the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) yearly report issued earlier in the day, which found possible irregularities in records furnished by public agencies for audit, among other things.

MOF said every case will be thoroughly investigated, and any officer involved in such crimes will be dealt with.

"People are at the heart of our public service enterprise. We are disappointed with the instances of public officers fabricating or altering documents for audit that AGO had flagged, such as in the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the People's Association.

"We take a serious view of irregularities in records furnished for audit. Such actions weaken the system of public accountability," the ministry said.

MOF added that it will "throw the book at officers involved in suspected fraud and corruption, including lodging police reports for criminal investigations to be conducted".

Meanwhile, the heads of agencies will continue to strengthen governance and controls, as well as intensify internal audits to look out for any wrongdoing. Any such issues detected will be dealt with, the ministry stressed.

"We will not waver in ensuring public accountability in the use of public funds as we continue to serve Singaporeans to the best of our efforts," it said.

MOF said that the AGO had conducted a thematic audit on facility management contracts under the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Home Affairs. It found that both had policies and procedures in place to manage their facility management contracts.

But even though the AGO observed a number of good practices in these agencies, it suggested areas for improvement. These include strengthening the controls and supervision of contractors' compliance with contractual requirements.

MOF said that it has started working on measures to consolidate facility management and improve how agencies manage such contracts. These measures aim to drive the sharing and adoption of good practices, standardise processes and deepen capabilities across public agencies, it said.

"By 2025, about 70 per cent of public agencies will have consolidated their facility management to achieve economies of scale and better outcomes. The Building and Infrastructure Centre of Excellence led by JTC is supporting these efforts by providing advisory services and training on facility management," added MOF.

MOF said improvements are needed to address lapses in procurement and contract management, as well as in IT controls and operations, areas which were highlighted in the AGO's audit report.

The audit revealed weaknesses at the Accountant-General's Department and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, among other agencies, over the management of privileged operating system user accounts - computer accounts that give access to more secure parts of an agency's systems.

MOF said the heads of the agencies that were singled out by the AGO have reviewed each case carefully and are taking steps to address the lapses identified and enhance their agencies' systems and processes.

The ministry is also implementing government-wide steps to address these issues. These include setting up the Government Procurement Function Office to review policies and strengthen capabilities in procurement.

To improve IT controls, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group and relevant agencies are on track to implement technical systems to automate the review of privileged users' activities for 800 high-priority systems by December 2022, and all systems by December 2023.

With regard to operations management, MOF said it will ensure that regular post-payment analytics are conducted. It added that a new human resource and payroll system with better controls will be rolled out later this year. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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