Mindef has earned other rebuke from the AG before. In 2010, the AG concluded that there was $22,000 worth of unnecessary expenditure on food. That's small change compared to $289,499 or $333 million, but $22,000 is a whole lot of food to be wasted anyway. Was it honest mistake or dodgy under the table deals going on? In 2007, Mindef fined some of its staff between $1k and $5k for personal failure and negligence over the awarding of contracts. So there were no kickbacks, and only bad books, so they say.
Auditor-General ticks off errant agencies
Advance payments improperly made and other lapses highlighted in report
By CHUANG PECK MING
Published October 14, 2011
(SINGAPORE) The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has apparently failed to heed a government directive which says that, normally, payments should be made only after goods are delivered or services rendered satisfactorily - in other words, not in advance, unless it's an industry norm.
As at March 31, 2010, Mindef had made cumulative advance payments to the tune of $333 million to the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), says the Auditor- General's Office (AGO) in its report for the financial year 2010/11.
'This is a substantial amount of government funds being kept at DSTA,' it says. 'Advance payments could have been avoided if Mindef's arrangement with DSTA had been to pay DSTA based on actual materials cost incurred at the project milestones, which were available at the time of payment, instead of costs estimated at the time of project assignment.'
In one project, Mindef paid DSTA $6.41 million, or nearly nine times in excess of the actual materials cost incurred by DSTA.
'This translates to about 87.8 per cent of the total estimated materials cost being paid out by the fifth month of the 29-month- long project,' says the report, which has been submitted to the President and Parliament. 'It took DSTA 21 months to use up this excess payment received.'
Mindef subsequently reviewed the payment schedules, and the cumulative advance payments were reduced to $90 million as at March 31, 2011.
The report says Mindef also erred in not recovering $3.03 million in advances as at July 2009 from 358 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel who had left the service. Of this sum, about $1.78 million was outstanding for over two years.
After AGO's discovery, Mindef acted to recover or write off almost half of the outstanding cases. Improvements were also made.
AGO also detected lapses in the Ministry of Education (excess withdrawal from the Post-Secondary Education Fund); Ministry of Finance (weak access controls in the computer system); Ministry of Home Affairs (in administration of the INVEST Fund); Ministry of National Development (contract management); and Ministry of Trade and Industry (non-compliance with the Public Service Division's directive).
Statutory boards such as the Economic Development Board, Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and Info-Communications Development Authority have also lapsed.
Many of the errors found this year were in procurement, says Auditor- General Lim Soon Ping. 'They arose when the government procurement rules and principles of transparency and open and fair competition were not adhered to.'
Examples include waiving competition based on weak grounds; setting an unrealistically short time for submission of bids, limiting competition; not giving equal opportunity to tenderers to revise their bid price when requirements were changed; and accepting a tender which did not meet specifications.
'It is important that officers not only observe procurement rules, but also uphold the principles underlying public sector procurement,' Mr Lim says.