Auditor-General's Office report

AGO report: AGO flags weak MOE controls over public funds

Students at the premises of Nanyang Technological University.
Students at the premises of Nanyang Technological University.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has not done enough to ensure that tuition fee loans and study loans given to tertiary students are paid back on time, the Auditor- General's Office (AGO) said in its latest annual report.

Loans due for recovery from National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University graduates stood at $228.04 million last June. This is part of $511.49 million in the outstanding balance of tuition fee and study loans given to students of institutes of higher learning, the AGO said.

This weakness was part of a larger theme the AGO identified across various agencies, including weak governance of public funds and lax oversight of several schemes.

 
 
 
 

MOE stood out for scrutiny, given that the management of significant amounts of public funds it is responsible for is outsourced to external administrators, and its oversight was found to be lacking.

Also flagged: lapses in monitoring and enforcing foreign students' scholarship bonds at two universities, and Nanyang Polytechnic not having a proper governance framework for dealings with a subsidiary.

"For proper accountability, it is important that controls and mechanisms are in place to ensure that public funds are used to achieve the intended objectives," Auditor- General Willie Tan said in his overview at the start of the report.

The AGO highlighted four areas where agencies should improve.

First, inadequate financial controls that could result in the loss of government revenue. Second, weak governance over the management of public funds. Third, inadequate oversight of external entities administering schemes and loans. And fourth, lapses in the management of contracts and development projects involving significant amounts of public funds.

The AGO said agencies "have indicated they are committed to rectify the lapses and put in place measures to prevent future occurrence", adding that it will ascertain that these follow-up actions are taken.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2016, with the headline 'AGO flags weak MOE controls over public funds'. Print Edition | Subscribe