Auditor-General chided sloppy civil servants

Transparency in Singapore Civil Service
Transparency in Singapore Civil Service

You can the full Report of the Auditor-General for the Financial Year 2008/09 HERE. It’s a 62 pages PDF file.

Quite a few government ministries and statutory boards were named and shamed, of which the champion is the Media Development Authority (MDA).

Full story via Straits Times.com:

THE Auditor-General (AG) has chided civil servants for being sloppy in their management of public funds. He accuses them of tending to opt for what is convenient administratively over financial prudence and being lax in enforcing penalties and other contractual rights.

They are also too ready in accepting the recommendations of consultants, added A-G Lim Soo Ping.

One government agency whose slip-ups are particularly costly is regulator Media Development Authority (MDA).

Its lapses, which filled nine pages of a 40-page report released by the A-G on Tuesday, included failing to collect an estimated $9.89 million in revenue. The sum was from 46 films in which it invested and which were screened, some as long ago as 4-1/2 years. In addition, the MDA did not review whether these projects met such objectives as creating jobs for Singaporeans.

Such shortcomings in contract management and in the procurement of goods and services formed a significant portion of the lapses uncovered in the yearly audit of government agencies, the A-G said, in his latest report for the financial year ending March 31 this year.

Mr Lim blamed the lapses partly on officers who were ‘inclined towards administrative convenience with financial prudence taking a back seat’. Also, some officers were too ready to take at face value the recommendations of consultants, without giving enough thought to the financial implications. ‘A small dose of scepticism is always helpful,’ he said.

Contractual obligations were also not followed. For instance, at the Institute of Technical Education, a contractor underperformed for more than a year. There were delays and the landscaping work was unsatisfactory. Yet, no damages were imposed on the contractor.

Another reason for the lapses is that the approving authorities place too much trust in the proposals and recommendations submitted to them, said the A-G. They assume the officers have thoroughly considered all factors, like a fair and transparent procurement process.

‘Many lapses can be avoided if the approving authorities are more rigorous in their scrutiny and ask the pertinent, if inconvenient, questions,’ the A-G said. As a result of the lapses, there is ‘little or no assurance of value for money in projects carried out’, said Mr Lim.

The agencies have promised the A-G to tighten their processes. MDA is, among other things, introducing a system to track revenues from film projects.

OTHER LAPSES

WASTING MONEY ON OFFICE SPACE

Spring Singapore renovated its chairman’s office in Bukit Merah in early 2007. But new chairman Philip Yeo continued to work at Biopolis in Buona Vista, at his old office in A*Star where he had been the chairman.

Spring also paid rent for the Biopolis office. When the place had to be vacated, it leased space at nearby Fusionopolis for the chairman and other users.

About $2 million was unnecessarily spent on renting and renovating these offices, the Auditor-General noted.

TARDY WITH ELECTRONIC PARKING

The Urban Redevelopment Authority gave the nod for a pilot project on an electronic parking system for its carparks in 2003. It has yet to be implemented.

OVER-PAYING FOR SCHOOL CLEANING

The Education Ministry could have saved $1 million to $15 million if it had not rejected the lowest 11 bids for school cleaning contracts in 2006.

It felt the bids were not realistic but the A-G noted the bids were only 5 to 9 per cent below the market norm.

Also, four of them were past contractors whose services the ministry had found to be satisfactory.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

The Media Development Authority appoints mentors to recommend start-up companies in interactive and digital media. Each can get a grant of up to $50,000. But four start-ups were founded and co-owned by mentors.

Also, an expert appointed by MDA to evaluate grant applications was found to be a shareholder in one start-up and a business partner of the mentor of nine other companies that got the grant.

EMPTY HOSTEL ROOMS

The Institute of Technical Education did not do an evaluation study before spending $1.25 million on converting multi-purpose rooms into 12 hostel rooms for overseas exchange students.

The occupancy rate last year was only 28 per cent, noted the A-G.

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