PARLIAMENT

Debate In 2 Minutes

The recent Auditor-General's Office (AGO) report that highlighted lapses in public sector agencies came under scrutiny in Parliament yesterday.

These lapses are "fundamentally different" from those at the Workers' Party (WP) town council, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said.

Other topics raised included the massive train breakdown on July 7, and the Botanic Gardens. Four Bills were also passed, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill and the Silver Support Scheme Bill.

Public sector lapses

The Government's financial statements are reliable and public funds are properly accounted for, DPM Tharman emphasised yesterday.

Steps have been taken to improve practices at all agencies where lapses have been found, and officers responsible were taken to task, he added. Any audit by the AGO must be expected to turn up some lapses and oversights, he said, adding that he would be concerned with the audit's rigour and independence if nothing was found.


Lapses in WP town council

Where the Government's accounts are concerned, there is "full visibility, the curtains aren't drawn", said DPM Tharman yesterday.

This is not so at the WP's Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council, which is like a house that is "structurally unsafe", he added. And their handling of the issues raised by a special year-long audit is akin to "saying that except for the fact that the pillars of my house are in serious danger of collapsing, everything is fine", he said.

WP chairman Sylvia Lim, in turn, said that of 13 disclaimers flagged by its auditors in its previous accounts, only three remain unresolved for financial year 2013/2014.


SMRT response 'inadequate'

SMRT's contingency plans were "not adequate" to handle the breakdown last month that disrupted the North- South and East-West lines and affected 250,000 commuters during peak hour, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo.

An improved plan has since been put in place in the event of a breakdown, giving commuters two options: trunk bus services that will be ramped up, or special bridging buses. In the latter case, commuters in the city can travel via alternative MRT lines to key interchange stations, and then transfer to these buses that go to heartland estates.


More bite against organised crime

A Bill passed yesterday targets the "pernicious" activities of organised crime groups, especially masterminds who instruct and intimate others into criminal acts.

Among other things, it gives courts the powers to confiscate ill-gotten gains of criminal syndicates without a conviction, said Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran, who added that the crime situation here is under control.


New rules for employers

From April 1 , employers who do not issue itemised payslips or spell out key employment terms in writing for their workers can be fined under changes to the Employment Act passed yesterday.

The law will also treat less severe infringements - such as the failure to keep detailed employment records - as civil offences that attract a fine, and not a criminal record.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2015, with the headline 'Debate In 2 Minutes'. Print Edition | Subscribe