Detailed account of govt spending published online

We refer to Ms Christie Loh's letter (Time to apply big data analytics; March 3). We would like to clarify certain inaccurate points.

Ms Loh claims that "there is no variance analysis" of expenditures and suggests that the Government needs to do more to "provide full accountability of budgeted and actual expenditure numbers of taxpayer money".

The Government publishes a detailed account of its expenditure through the Revenue and Expenditure Estimates, which is submitted annually to Parliament as part of the Budget process.

This includes revised expenditure projections for the current financial year and planned expenditures for the next financial year for individual projects. It also includes ministry-specific key performance indicators.

Furthermore, the Government publishes a summary of the Budget, the Analysis of Revenue and Expenditure, which includes an analysis of the variance between budgeted and revised expenditures. The latest analysis does not include the actual expenditure for FY2017, as the financial year has not ended.

Both documents are available on the Singapore Budget website (www.singaporebudget.gov.sg). Data is also provided in the Singapore Government's open data portal (www.data.gov.sg).

Ms Loh's assertion that the Government's approach "encourages spending simply because budget has been allocated" is also inaccurate. The Government has a system of rules and processes designed to ensure that spending is prudent, efficient and effective.

First, the allocation of funding is determined after detailed planning and careful evaluation of ministries' needs.

Large development projects are put through the rigorous, multi-stage Gateway process, where the requirement, scope and design of the project are scrutinised by external technical experts at key milestones, before funding is approved.

Second, after funding is allocated, ministries are required to prioritise their spending within carefully sized budget caps, and can roll over cost savings to the next year if spending requirements do not materialise.

The Ministry of Finance works with agencies to review whether programmes achieved their intended outcomes in a cost-efficient manner. The performance of key programmes is published in the biennial Singapore Public Sector Outcomes Review.

Finally, government ministries and statutory boards are subject to audit by the Auditor-General's Office. Findings are published in the annual Report of the Auditor-General, available publicly.

The Government is working on making more data, including budget-related data, available in machine-readable format.

Lim Yuin Chien

Director (Corporate Communications)

Ministry of Finance

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2018, with the headline 'Detailed account of govt spending published online'. Print Edition | Subscribe