Josephine Teo and Png Eng Huat clash over AGO audits of government entities

SINGAPORE - Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo on Friday challenged MP Png Eng Huat (Hougang) to cite instances where the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) had reached the same conclusions in its routine audits of government entities as in its recent audit of the Workers' Party-run town council.

Their crossing of swords in Parliament came during the second day of debate on the AGO'S findings of lapses in accounting and governance at the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

Mr Png, in his speech in Parliament, had listed some of the lapses in ministries and statutory boards found by the AGO during its regular annual audits.

"Some of these lapses were small in financial value, while others were serious and the list goes on... AHPETC is also found by the AGO to have erred in some of these areas and I am certain AHPETC will not be the last as well, because good corporate governance is a work in progress," he said.

He added: "On any other given day, the report (of the AHPETC audit) may read like a typical AGO report on any entity under audit, but today the spotlight is on AHPETC, and we will explain to the public."

Immediately after Mr Png's speech, Mrs Teo rose to seek a clarification on his comments.

She pointed out that the AGO had concluded in its AHPETC audit that "unless the weaknesses are addressed, there can be no assurance that AHPETC's financial statements are accurate and reliable and that public funds are properly spent, accounted for and managed".

She asked: "I'd like to know whether Mr Png is aware of any other occasion that the AGO has drawn the same conclusion for a government ministry or statutory board?"

Mr Png replied that it was his intention to show that lapses occur, and he was not trying to equate the conclusions in the AGO's AHPETC audit with the ones in its regular audits.

Mr Png said: "The conclusion that AHPETC got from AGO is there, is unique, yes, we accepted it. But those example that I cited are things that the AGO picked up too. Isn't that real? Are those not real instances where lapses happened too?

"I'm not saying that because AHPETC was tabled in Parliament. But I'm just citing that the AGO's work is thorough, fair, and I respect that," he added.