1. On behalf of Ministries and public agencies, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) would like to thank the Auditor-General (AG) and his office for the FY2016/17 Auditor-General’s Report and recommendations.
2. The AG has given an unmodified audit opinion on the Government Financial Statements for FY2016/17. This gives assurance that public funds have been independently verified to be properly accounted for, and the accounts are reliable and prepared in accordance with the law.
3. The public sector’s overall system of managing public funds remains sound. However, there are areas where government agencies can do better, by strengthening their financial governance. The AG’s report identifies three such areas – i.e. Information Technology (IT) controls, financial controls and oversight of development projects.
4. While we recognise that it is not possible to completely eliminate individual human lapses, errors or misjudgement, the Public Service is taking a concerted effort to address the issues identified. As the AG has noted, “government agencies are committed to rectify the lapses and put in place measures to prevent future recurrence”. Heads of the agencies responsible have reviewed each case and where warranted, appropriate actions have been or will be taken against those responsible.
5. The Public Service is taking steps to address the common issues in a systemic way:
a) Enhancing Financial Controls in Grants Administration
Since 2016, the Accountant-General’s Department, in consultation with government agencies, has been developing a guide that will help government agencies put in place appropriate control procedures to ensure better accountability and efficiency in their grant administration. When completed, MOF will be issuing it to government agencies by the 4th quarter of 2017.
b) Strengthening Management of Development Projects and Contract Variations
We have recently set up the Building & Infrastructure Centre of Excellence under JTC Corporation which will advise government agencies and strengthen their capabilities in managing infrastructure projects. We have also enhanced the project management training programme for public officers. MOF has worked with agencies to develop further guidelines on managing contract variations for development projects. These were issued in June 2017.
c) Strengthening Audits and Policies to Improve IT Governance
The public sector has IT policies to ensure proper controls are put in place in order to safeguard the integrity of its IT systems and the data within. These policies have been continually strengthened over the years to improve the IT security posture of the public sector. Internal audits are also conducted from time to time against these policies to help agencies identify shortcomings for remediation. Beyond the remedial steps taken by the agencies concerned in response to the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) findings, the newly-formed Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) will strengthen the internal IT audit regime so that agencies can better identify and rectify any gaps in compliance with the prevailing IT policies. In addition, SNDGG will continue to refine the policies and proliferate best practices to raise the governance and performance of public sector IT systems.
6. Improving financial governance and accountability of government agencies as custodians and stewards of public resources is a journey of continuous improvement. We will continue to use the findings from internal reviews and the AGO audits to identify gaps and make concerted efforts to rectify the lapses.