Auditor-General Report for FY2016/1701 Aug 2017
Parliamentary Question by Ms Foo Mee Har:
To ask the Minister for Finance whether there will be an accountability review of Government officers involved given the lapses in financial controls in grants administration, management of development projects, as well as IT governance as reported in the Report of the Auditor-General for FY2016/17.
Parliamentary Question by Mr Png Eng Huat:
To ask the Minister for Finance based on the findings in the Report of the Auditor-General for FY2016/17, whether AGO will direct all the entities in the Report to investigate all improper payments made and determine the amount of money to recover.
Parliamentary Reply by Senior Minister of State Ms Indranee Rajah:
The Auditor General's Report reflects its findings in respect of two types of audit conducted every year on government agencies. The first concerns whether the accounts of the government are reliable and prepared in accordance with the law. The second concerns the rules and procedures in individual public agencies, for example, whether the rules and processes are adequate and have been complied with.
2. On the former, the Auditor General's Office (AGO) has given the Government Financial Statements this year an unmodified audit opinion, as has been the case in previous years. In other words, in the AGO’s opinion, the Financial Statements have been presented, in all material respects, in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework. This means that the accounts of the Ministries, Departments and Organs of State have all been found to be reliable and prepared in accordance with the law. On the latter, the AGO has highlighted in its Report some areas in which there have been procedural lapses and where the government agencies can do better. We take these findings seriously.
3. Ms Foo asked about accountability review of the officers involved. The head of each of the agencies concerned, be it the Permanent Secretary of a Ministry or the Chief Executive of a Statutory Board, is responsible for investigating the cases under his agency, rectifying the lapses and taking the appropriate disciplinary actions.
4. The lapses highlighted this year by AGO were due to individual negligence, human errors or situations where procedures were in place but not followed. There is no evidence of a systemic weakness within government agencies in terms of compliance. The officers responsible for these lapses will be held accountable and will be subject to disciplinary actions, commensurate with the officer’s culpability and the severity of the mistake. The lapses will also be considered when appraising the officer’s performance.
5. As of today, of the 14 observations in the AGO report, rectification and staff actions have been completed for eight while the remaining six are in progress. They are expected to be completed, latest by March 2018. The Auditor-General has also said it will ascertain that follow-up actions are taken. As it has demonstrated in past years’ reports, AGO will not hesitate to highlight situations where it finds that agencies have failed to follow up as they had indicated. Agencies are also accountable to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and PAC reports are publicly available.
Recovery of Public Monies
6. Next, let me address Mr Png’s question on investigating all improper payments and its recovery.
7. I should clarify at the outset that there is no indication in the AGO Report of any payments due to fraud, misfeasance or dishonesty. The cases highlighted by AGO this year largely concerned overpayments and payments made without prior approval, arising from human error, negligence or failure to follow established procedures.
8. In each of these cases, agencies are taking prompt actions to recover any monies which might have been erroneously paid out. AGO noted that SCORE has recovered the overpaid amounts. EDB has completed the remedial action for all payment related lapses, including recovery of monies in the two incidences of overpayments. MOH is reviewing the claims by its agents and service providers and will recover any overpayments. MSF is also taking corrective actions to make good under-reimbursements and to recover over-reimbursements for Government-Paid Paternity Leave scheme.
9. The government agencies are taking the necessary corrective actions in respect of the lapses highlighted in the AGO Report.