PA sets up panel to review rules and procedures

Lack of transparency in transactions between related parties at government bodies such as the People's Association was flagged by the Auditor-General's Office on July 15, 2015.
Lack of transparency in transactions between related parties at government bodies such as the People's Association was flagged by the Auditor-General's Office on July 15, 2015. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Committee to make recommendations after three-month review is completed

A new committee set up by the People's Association (PA) to review the rules and procedures of grassroots bodies will hold its first meeting next Tuesday, and is expected to complete its review, with recommendations, in three months.  

This grassroots finance review committee will be chaired by Mr Timothy de Souza, who told The Straits Times yesterday that the review is to make sure everything is above board. "It is an exercise in maintaining and improving public confidence in the PA," said the grassroots leader, 68, who is a trustee of the Eurasian Association.

"The moral tone has to be so correct that the PA, as the main public face in touch with the citizens, is beyond reproach," he added.

The Auditor-General's Office (AGO) had noted procurement lapses, tender irregularities and conflicts of interest at grassroots organisations, in its latest annual report released two days ago.

NEED FOR GOVERNANCE

Even though grassroots organisations are run by volunteers, they are still using public money.

It is important to have the right level of governance and checks.

MR BAEY YAM KENG, Tampines GRC MP

Yesterday, the PA issued a statement on the three-man panel, saying its four tasks include recommending refinements to financial and procurement rules and procedures, especially those highlighted by the AGO, and proposing ways to improve compliance of financial rules. It will also suggest ways to strengthen monitoring by PA staff and better training for the staff and grassroots leaders.

The PA also wants it to come up with measures to enable its 37,000 grassroots leaders and volunteers to continue to "serve the community's best interest while maintaining good governance and sound financial practices".

Mr de Souza said one important consideration is that the changes must not be so onerous on grassroots leaders that these volunteers no longer want to serve the community.

The two other men on the panel are Mr John Teo Woon Keng, chief financial officer at Singapore Pools, and Mr Chiang Heng Liang, director of wealth management at Deutsche Bank. Both are grassroots leaders like Mr de Souza, who is the auditor of Mayfair Park Neighbourhood Committee. Mr Teo is treasurer of Kampong Glam Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC) and Mr Chiang is chairman of Kolam Ayer CCC.

They will be supported by senior PA officers and can seek advice from the Finance Ministry.

Meanwhile, the PA has a hotline for grassroots bodies to get correct procurement procedures and it will step up their training.

The PA move was welcomed by Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Culture, Community and Youth. "Even though grassroots organisations are run by volunteers, they are still using public money. It is important to have the right level of governance and checks," Mr Baey said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story and its headline said that the PA had set up a panel to fix lapses. This is incorrect. The panel is to review rules and procedures.  We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2015, with the headline 'PA sets up panel to review rules and procedures'. Print Edition | Subscribe