SingPost audit report delayed again

SingPost said in February that the findings would be reported in March but amended that to sometime this month. But yesterday, the last trading day of April, it informed SGX that "the special audit report is pending final clarifications".
SingPost said in February that the findings would be reported in March but amended that to sometime this month. But yesterday, the last trading day of April, it informed SGX that "the special audit report is pending final clarifications".ST FILE PHOTO

Singapore Post has once more failed to deliver.

The postal group was due to publish the results of an investigation into its corporate governance lapses by the end of April but it said last night that the report again would be delayed.

No explanation was made in the Singapore Exchange filing for the hold-up. The five-line statement said only that "the special audit report is pending final clarifications and a summary of the findings will be made public at the earliest time".

This was the second time that SingPost failed to deliver.

The firm had stated in February that the findings would be reported in March, but said at the end of that month that the report would be out sometime this month.

One reason the investigation has not reached closure, sources said, was that the report has been circulated many times between the special auditors Drew & Napier and PricewaterhouseCoopers, SGX and the SingPost board, including independent director Keith Tay.

There were reportedly disagreements with how the facts were being presented, as well as indecision over whether the report should be released to the public in full or in summary.

SingPost spokesman Peter Heng did not comment on the truth of these claims yesterday, saying only that the report is in its final stages, and that it has to undergo "due process" before it is released.

Mr Tay - the man at the centre of the corporate governance slip-up - had requested the special audit in December last year.

The auditors are investigating how it transpired that SingPost failed to disclose Mr Tay's interest in two acquisitions made by the firm last year and in 2014.

Mr Mak Yuen Teen, SingPost shareholder and associate professor at the National University of Singapore business school, said last night that the delay does not reflect well on the SingPost board.

"My concern is that what was to be a thorough and independent audit goes through a reinterpretation of the facts, resulting in a watered down report," he added.

"This may affect the credibility of the final report."

Mr Tay, who together with SingPost chairman Lim Ho Kee has served on the board since 1998, said on April 8 that he would not seek re-appointment at SingPost's annual general meeting in July, citing the need for board renewal.

Before SingPost announced the delay, its shares closed down four cents or 2.48 per cent at $1.57 yesterday.

Meanwhile, the designated postal authority, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), said it has also requested a copy of the report when ready.

"SingPost should ensure that it meets all necessary corporate governance requirements, without compromising on its role as the public postal licensee," IDA said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2016, with the headline 'SingPost audit report delayed again'. Print Edition | Subscribe