In its annual report last week on the accounts of public-sector entities, the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) flagged lapses in how public agencies here managed operations, made procurements and handled facilities management contracts. These ranged from weaknesses in IT controls, to a wastage of millions in public funds due to fitness trackers not being put to use. Some attendance records provided as supporting documents for claims were fabricated to meet audit requests, and disciplinary action was taken against those responsible. Police reports were also lodged in cases of possible falsification of supporting documents, including in relation to claims by external parties.
Such lapses are not new, and will happen again as long as there is room for human error and dishonesty. Even if many processes are automated, delays and variations have been known to be caused by management having different views or changing their minds during project implementation. Sometimes, contractors who are in a hurry do not wait for formal approvals and jump the gun. In other cases, public officers may be of good character and integrity, but may not be equipped to handle large and complex projects. Hence while clear and timely communication is critical, so are technical upskilling in project and facilities management, and the use of technology to minimise room for error.