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Statement by the Ministry of Finance on the Auditor-General's Report FY2018/2019

16 Jul 2019
1. On behalf of Ministries and public agencies, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) would like to thank the Auditor-General (AG) and her office for the FY2018/19 Auditor-General’s Report and recommendations. The Government has accepted all the recommendations, and agencies are working on the necessary follow-up actions.

2. The Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) audit has given an unmodified audit opinion on the Government Financial Statements. This is an independent verification that the Government’s accounts are reliable and prepared in accordance with the law. Public funds have been properly accounted for.

3. We adopt a zero tolerance approach to fraud and corruption, and note that the report has not identified instances of fraud or corruption among public officers.  

4. The AGO report has found instances of lapses and lack of adherence to established rules and processes. Heads of the agencies concerned have reviewed each case and are taking corrective measures to address these lapses. In cases of overpayments, agencies are following up to verify the specifics and are making the necessary rectifications.

5. AGO’s in-depth thematic audit of selected social grant programmes found that processes are in place for all five stages of the grant management process. However, in our efforts to deliver social services to the public, there is room for improvement in the approval, disbursements and monitoring of grant programmes. MOH and MSF are working on these areas, while carefully calibrating any additional compliance efforts needed by our community partners such as the Voluntary Welfare Organisations. 

6. Across the Public Service, we are making a concerted effort to address the AGO’s findings in three areas: IT controls, contract management and grant management.

7. Strengthening IT controls: To better safeguard the integrity and confidentiality of data residing in IT systems, agencies with findings will take action to improve their processes and remediate the governance lapses found. Across the Public Service, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) will help agencies raise their level of compliance on rules of IT controls. First, SNDGG will introduce more tools to automate IT tasks so that they can be conducted more reliably and human error can be avoided. In particular, SNDGG will automate processes supporting (a) the review of privileged users’ activities, and (b) the management of user access rights. Second, we will continue to strengthen our internal IT audit regime. In FY18, SNDGG conducted more extensive and rigorous checks using computer-aided technologies. It will work closely with agencies to ensure that the AGO’s findings are closely tracked and remediated. 

8. The ongoing Public Service Data Security Review Committee will examine how IT measures affecting data security and third party management may be improved. The Committee will submit its report to the Prime Minister by 30 November 2019.

9. Addressing lapses in contract management: To address the lapses in construction contracts, MOF has been working with the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) to implement the following measures:

a. MOF has simplified rules on variation orders and works, as one of the areas of lapses in contract management was due to the inaccurate interpretation of rules. We are also working with public agencies to produce a good practice guide on construction contract management.

b. BCA has enhanced the procurement framework for consultancy services by placing greater emphasis on quality during tender. This includes establishing a performance appraisal system to recognise firms that have performed well in managing past government projects.

c. MOF has also reminded public agencies to closely track the management of variation works so as to exercise the necessary contractual controls in a timely manner.

10. Improving grant management: Last year, MOF and the Accountant-General’s Department (AGD) led a cross-agency Grants Management Review Team to review the grants management process. The review has been completed and the Public Service is taking steps to improve grant governance. For instance, we will group agencies with similar grant types to work together on grant management and share good practices to strengthen coordination. MOF and AGD will provide central guidance on grants governance, and coordinate efforts to enhance governance and strengthen capabilities in grants administration. 

Public Accountability Remains our Top Priority

11. As stewards of public resources, we are firmly committed to ensuring a sound governance system. Regular audits to scrutinise the system, sharing of the issues found and agencies’ prompt response to address the issues reflect this commitment. As we make improvements, we are mindful of the need to strike a sensible balance between strengthening controls, and maintaining efficiency and timeliness in delivering services to Singaporeans. Public accountability remains our top priority and we will strive to continue to uphold Singapore’s reputation as one of the most transparent administrations in the world. 

Issued by: 
Ministry of Finance 
16 July 2019