Examination of PA's structure needed to ensure accountability

Maruah is disturbed by some of the findings in the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) report, specifically on the People's Association ("Auditor-General flags conflicts of interest"; July 16).

Apart from cases of conflict of interest in the management of related party transactions, the AGO also found significant errors and omissions in the disbursement of ComCare funds by some Citizens Consultative Committees (CCCs).

CCC members may be well-meaning but they may not be familiar with government financial procedures and may have, inadvertently, taken some liberties in transactions.

As ComCare is an important source of urgent financial assistance for Singaporeans facing immediate difficulties, it would be best for this to be disbursed directly by Ministry of Social and Family Development social service agencies rather than through CCCs, whose members are not trained in social work.

More fundamentally, the AGO's findings renew our concerns on the close ties between grassroots organisations and the Government.

The PA works exclusively with advisers appointed by the Government instead of all elected MPs, even though it receives over $500 million of government funds for its work. Members of grassroots organisations are also expected to be loyal to government appointees instead of all elected representatives.

The very structure of the PA needs to be re-examined to ensure that it serves the needs of all Singaporeans.

This report has shed light on financial irregularities led by CCC personnel.

We call for an investigation to look into the role of the PA in its service to all Singaporeans and to all elected MPs, as well as an examination of its training of staff and volunteers to ensure accountability in the disbursement of funds and services.

Braema Mathi (Ms)
President, Maruah

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2015, with the headline 'Examination of PA's structure needed to ensure accountability'. Print Edition | Subscribe