Lapses & weaknesses in management of public funds in some ministries, govt agencies
By Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid | Posted: 03 August 2010 1932 hrs
SINGAPORE : Lapses and weaknesses in the internal controls over the management of public funds have been found in several ministries and government agencies. This was revealed in the Auditor-General's report for the financial year 2009/2010 released on Tuesday.
The report also showed the need for greater vigilance in the area of IT security.
But the lapses were not as severe as those highlighted in last year's report, which involved millions of dollars that could have been spent more prudently.
Some of the areas that came under scrutiny were how well finances were managed and how efficiently resources were used.
One ministry that did not fare well in financial management was Community Development, Youth and Sports.
Managing agents of three welfare homes transferred donations of S$34,907 to the accounts of voluntary welfare organisations (VWOS) - when the money should have gone to the homes.
At one welfare home, valuables and nearly S$13,000 cash belonging to residents were kept in cardboard boxes and shopping bags in the Superintendent's office.
The misuse of government payouts meant for patients was also uncovered.
Test checks at six nursing homes showed that between 2005 and 2009, as estimated S$1.19 million in government payouts was cashed by the homes on behalf of patients. But one home treated the money as its revenue, while the other five used it to pay for medical treatment and charges incurred by the respective patients, without their authorisation.
One of the homes also used the money to buy general supplies and equipment such as wheelchairs and safety vests.
Wastage of public funds was another issue. Here, the Ministry of Defence did not fare well. Checks on two camps revealed lapses in the way meals were accounted for - there were 63 instances of excess meal orders. These were covered up by personnel managing the cookhouses or servicemen who falsified the records. That resulted in unnecessary expenditure of about S$22,000. The report stated that MINDEF has taken disciplinary action against the personnel involved in the falsification of records.
There was also an instance when revenue due to the government was not collected.
The Singapore Police Force lost S$648,000 in revenue; for more than 10 years, it did not charge town councils and statutory boards a fee of S$25 for every Warrant of Arrest enforced.
This happened between 1997 and 2009 for several prosecuting agencies.
As for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it had over 50 cases of overpayment of salaries, bonuses, overtime claims, medical and dental subsidies to the mission staff, as well as double payment of medical expenses. These amounted to at least $5,800.
Other lapses observed include non-compliance with government instructions and guidelines such as an officer certifying his own claims.
The report said that although the amount of repayments observed from the test checks is not significant, the control lapses need to be rectified so that the system of internal controls is rigorous enough to ensure that payments made are correct and for valid purposes.
In the area of IT, security lapses were found in the government accounting system "NFS@Gov", administered by the Accountant-General's Department.
Over 640 end-user accounts were wrongly given access rights to an application designer tool. Some of the accounts would allow users to modify programs or records in the system.
There was also an unauthorised testing of a computer system at the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority that saw two invoices generated with incorrect amounts.
The report stated that the lapses should not be seen as reflecting the general quality of the internal controls in the bodies concerned, but they do point to the need for greater vigilance, especially in IT security as government ministries and statutory boards are extensively computerised.
A horizontal audit across statutory boards to identify gaps and shortcomings in governance framework and practices was also conducted. And it was observed that in general, statutory boards had in place systems and processes for governance.
The report will be deliberated by the Public Accounts Committee and where necessary, particular ministries would have to account for the lapses reported. - CNA/ms/ls