More concrete plan needed to prevent govt agencies' lapses

In the public sector, the management and administration of funds and grants are fundamental to daily operations.

It is thus surprising to see the extent of such lapses across different ministries and offices ("Auditor-General flags conflicts of interest"; July 16).

Some of these lapses are in rather basic functions. For example, when advance payment is disbursed, there must be eventual submission to account for the actual expenditure to either recover unused portions or top up inadequate funding.

As highlighted in the Auditor-General's report, since "audits are conducted on a test check basis, they do not reveal all irregularities and weaknesses". This means that the public has no idea of the extent of such lapses in the utilisation of public funds.

Operationally, did the responsible functions in the organisations set up proper business and administrative processes, and then have regular management oversight and reviews to ensure things are in order?

It is also a concern that both the external and the internal auditors of these ministries and offices did not detect the lapses and rectify them.

With millions in annual budgets, there must be a large variety and volume of grants that need to be tracked, and monitoring them can be daunting.

These lapses may be indicative of an inadequate use of a comprehensive technology platform to monitor the funds and grants - from the allocating of budgets to disbursements, recording and reporting for accountability and/or reimbursements.

The ministries and offices with such lapses should provide a more concrete response as to how these will be prevented in future, instead of just a few lines on improving or strengthening their controls.

Clement Chung

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2015, with the headline 'More concrete plan needed to prevent govt agencies' lapses'. Print Edition | Subscribe