Scrutinise budgets of all ministries

I agree with Mr Peter Loon Seng Chee that the Government should keep costs down instead of focusing on the provision of subsidies (Subsidies not the answer, keeping costs down is; Jan 18).

The Auditor-General and all parliamentary budgetary committees should scrutinise the budgets of all ministries to ensure that all budgetary projections are not computed with an "annual cost inflation factor", which escalates the overall annual costs of ministries without good justification.

The economy does not always shift on a linear projection but in a cyclical pattern. Thus, costs should be lower when the economy grows at a slower pace.

Technological disruptions and automation will see the reduction of manpower needs and operational costs.

The implied prudence of overbudgeting being better than shortfalls should be discouraged through tight internal controls and feedback from operational staff, which should be fed back to the top management.

Quite often, there is a mentality that the approved budget "must be spent" or it would be cut the following year.

It may also be inadvertently construed that if the approved budget is not spent, then there was no justification for the originally requested and approved budget in the first place.

It is important that the Government takes the initiative to reduce the costs of every ministry so that the cost savings cascade down and improve the overall competitiveness of our country and, eventually, reduce the cost of living for every citizen.

Sum Kam Weng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2018, with the headline 'Scrutinise budgets of all ministries'. Print Edition | Subscribe