Parliament watchdog urges government agencies to fix underlying issues behind lapses in governance and procurement

The Public Accounts Committee urged the Government to fix underlying problems that lead to lapses, such as the possible losses caused by undercollecting of tolls at the Woodlands and Tuas (pictured) checkpoints.
The Public Accounts Committee urged the Government to fix underlying problems that lead to lapses, such as the possible losses caused by undercollecting of tolls at the Woodlands and Tuas (pictured) checkpoints. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Parliament's watchdog of public sector accounts has told Government agencies and ministries to fix the underlying problems that led to their lapses in governance and procurement last year.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) urged the organisations not to go with "piecemeal" fixes that might result only in more red tape and higher costs.

Instead, they suggested a redesign the entire system or making better use of technology to address the fundamental causes of the lapses.

The PAC also noted four issues in its latest annual report submitted to Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 17) and released on Wednesday.

The issues are: inadequate financial controls, proper governance framework not in place, lack of oversight of administration of schemes, and lapses in management of contracts.

The PAC, made up of eight MPs who scrutinise how public funds are spent, tracks what government agencies have done to correct irregularities in the use of public funds.

It studied the latest Auditor-General's report, which found lapses in 16 ministries and 11 statutory boards for the financial year 2015/2016. The panel scrutinised some lapses and asked the ministries to account for how they had addressed the gaps.

The report had found that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) could have lost out on $13.93 million by undercollecting toll charges at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints - an area the Transport Ministry is responsible for.

In response, LTA told the panel it will change the law by the first quarter of 2017 to prevent foreign vehicles with unpaid tolls and fees from entering or exiting Singapore.

The changes were proposed in Parliament earlier this month, under the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill.

Other lapses flagged in the report included the high fee paid to consultants for the Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall bin centre, which came under the Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth.

The National Arts Council had come under fire over the bin centre, as the Auditor-General's report noted that the $410,000 paid to the consultant came up to nearly 90 per cent of what was paid to build the bin centre, which cost another $470,000.

MCCY explained its reasons for deciding the fee was reasonable. It also told the PAC that it had reiterated that evaluations of whether quoted fees were reasonable should be included in approval documents.