Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mindef Gets It Again from AG

Mindef was rapped on the knuckles for paying DSTA in advance, about $333 million in advance. Yes, $333 million. Sure, DSTA like DSO, is Mindef-linked and it is left pocket going into the right pocket. Still it is tax-payers money and we want proper mind-boggling red tape! You know what the real slap in the face is? In 2010, just last year, $289,499 was also paid in advance from Mindef to DSTA. So it is not the first time, and from 2010 to 2011, the amount of advance payment has increased significantly. WTF!!!

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

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.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hong Kong Maids become Honky Residents! Singapore How?

Evangeline Banao. In the name of human rights, maids in Hong Kong can now become permanent residents in the SAR! The Hong Kong very scared and very angry government is appealing against the ruling - the wonders of the separation of the executive and the judiciary, where courts go left and government goes right (pun intended!). Hong Kong law allows foreigners who work in that former British colony to apply for residency if they had worked for at least 7 years uninterrupted. Except maids, even if the maids slaved 7 years non-stop, not only uninterrupted.

Just after Hong Kong introduced minimum wage laws of HKD 28/hr around May this year, the human-worker rights groups are on the roll. Maids there already have a minimum wage of HKD3,740 a month or about HKD 125 per day or in an 8-hour work day, about HKD 15/hr! Do you see where it is heading? Do you??? Maids would next ask for a revision of minimum wage of their HKD 15/hr to the new normal of HKD 28/hr! Just wait and see. The calculative money-face Honky employer would then charge food and room to their maids in return if maid wages go up.

What is the implication of Honky residency? Maids-turned-residents now have the right to bring in dependents to stay with them in Hong Kong. Daddy, mummy, sister, brother, hubby, uncle, aunty from Manila to Medan might turn up at Chek Lap Kok with huge cardboard boxes with raffia string wrapped around, as luggage. They jam into the MTR and place stress on healthcare, housing, education and all those services. These maids can then stop at being maids once they get residency, since nobody wants to be a maid forever.They would then compete for jobs with the locals in the service sector. Imagine the stereotypical polite Pinoy and the rude Hongky, which of the two is going to get the sales job at Giordano we all know. Well, that is according to the Hongky xenophobes who already have to deal with spitting, cussing and crass mainlanders.

Now the fun part. Would local do-gooders like Transient Workers Count Too shout for human rights for maids in Singapore too and lobby that maids are also allowed permanent residency in Singapore. Equality for foreigners and local without discrimination. However, I bet TWC2 dare not go into this area. There is already immense xenophobia in Singapore and it is hara-kiri for groups like TWC2, Maruah, TOC to defend maids to this extent i.e. minimum wage for maids and giving them residency. Better be a realistic hypocrite than an unrealistic activist they would quietly think.

Leticia Bongnino Happy Only

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Denmark Tekan Mr and Mrs Ah Pui

 Denmark, famous for the 2005 Jyllands-Posten Muhammad Cartoons controversy and re-igniting Islamophobia and jihad-crazies globally, and also, Lego! Yes, that expensive but damn fun educational toy we played as kids for those lucky enough to have stolen them Emporium, Yaohan, Sogo, Seiyu (depending on how old you are) or got them as gifts. Now Denmark is again world leader in the fat tax! Yes, Denmark is going all out to tekan people who want to buy ice cream, butter and all the fatty tasty bits of modern makan. The top guys in Andersen's of Denmark are probably really pissed about this subtle discrimination fat Danes.

WTF! WTF? The tax is 16 kroner (S$3.75) per kg of saturated fat. The objective of the tax is to make Danes healthy and live longer by making them make healthy food choices. Not really happy if they are foodies, but healthier especially when the Danish government tax salt consumption next for sure if they think they can get away with the fat tax. Why is the outgoing right-wing Danish government being so intrusive, bordering on curtailing the freedom of its citizens. Frankly, apart from right wing as a reason by itself, for a country that prides its human rights and democracy, that fat tax is really a deal-breaker. Screw the individual to support the state. 

Well, for one, the Danes are already used to pay ridiculously high tax to sustain their free healthcare, education and other privileges of a welfare state. No free lunch especially if you are a Viking and it is all about trade-offs.

Average income tax (income, labour market, pension components) are 44.4% (what a great number in Cantonese - die die, die!) and VAT, a consumption and therefore a regressive tax, is 25%. Hence, it totally makes sense from their government struggling to deal with an aging population and an inverted population pyramid to tax, tax and tax. The state does not want to pay for the healthcare of the indulgences of those who want to pig out.

Is the fat tax that oppressive in cramping individual freedom to do with what they want with their bodies and life? Depends whether you equate a fat tax with booze and ciggy taxes. Ciggy and booze are accepted as vices, and the Danes have entered new philosophical territory by announcing that saturated fat consumption is also a social vice. However, the incoming Social Democrat, Social Liberal and Socialist People's Party coalition might just throw out the fat tax as the first populist gesture from the centre-left government.

What's has this got to do with Singapore? That other countries also have ridiculous laws in the name of public good. And don't get me started on child seat belt laws in California.

"I am being singled out and discriminated coz I eat junk food.", says Dane Ah Pui

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Man Eating Shark

WTF Cold Storage not going to sell shark fin products anymore! One of their senior managers just came back from California and inspired by the recent shark fin ban there? Why? Why? Why! I don't eat shark fin but I support anybody who wants to eat shark fin. I'm very Voltaire in food politics BTW. Ang Mohs and their international lobbies trying to be imperialistic about what I choose to eat too! It is cruel to the sharks as the fishermen hack off the fin and dump the bleeding shark back into the sea. So cruelty to animals is the rationale? My ass. The root of this shark fin lobbying stinks of racism and double standards.

Foie gras, is a tasty Ang Moh delicacy pioneered by the Frenchies. The Frenchies BTW eat frog legs and throw the rest of Kermit away. Any similarity or references to double standards on shark fins is entirely coincidental. Back to eating duck liver and promoting "cruelty to animals". Foie gras is the liver of Donald Duck that is specially fattened, and pan fried usually. Yummy. For ducks to have fatty livers, they are force fed via a tube down Donald's throat. Now that is cruel right? So is Cold Storage going to ban the sale of foie gras in its 42 branches and Tanglin Market? I really doubt it.

Well OK, shark-huggers can have their say and do what they want to sleep at night, like pushing away the bowl of shark fin soup at a wedding dinner. I also want to do what I want to sleep well at night - after eating shark fin soup bowl after bowl until I'm full and happy. I paid $200 ang pow at the wedding and I better have shark fin.

The unsaid lesson in the Cold Storage ban is that they should not ban. What they could do is charge a shocking premium for shark fin items. Teach people not to eat shark fin via their purses and wallets. Cold Storage could have achieved greater corporate social responsibiility by giving customers a choice and educating them on the "right" choice as well. Educate and profit at the same time, like a tuition agency. Moreover, its decision to stop the sale of Jaws means NTUC and Shen Shiong are going to pick up what shark fin buyers whom Cold Storage has neglected. Tsk tsk Cold Storage.