No conflict of interest between AGO and ministries in audits: Chan Chun Sing

There is generally no conflict of interest between the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) and the ministries that it audits, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said in Parliament yesterday.

Mr Chan, Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, also set out how candidates are chosen to fill key constitutional appointments.

He was responding to Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC), who had asked the Government to confirm if the new Auditor-General was the wife of a senior minister of state and, if so, how it might affect public perception of the office's independence.

She did not name names, but was referring to Ms Goh Soon Poh, who took over the role last month and is the wife of the Senior Minister of State for Defence, Mr Heng Chee How.

Mr Chan confirmed that the public service is aware Ms Goh is married to Mr Heng, and said the Public Service Division's "values of integrity and excellence apply equally to the appointment process" as set out in the Constitution.

"In general, the key considerations when identifying candidates include their ability to do the job well, their qualifications and experience, track record, integrity and sense of public service," he said.

Mr Chan said the Auditor-General is appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister and the chairman of the Public Service Commission.

 
 
 

The President will then consult the Council of Presidential Advisers, "which provides an additional level of scrutiny and advice".

Mr Chan said Ms Goh has completed more than 30 years of public service "with distinction, utmost integrity and commitment to excellence".

Having served as deputy secretary for two of the largest ministries - Education and Home Affairs - and spent time in the Finance Ministry and the Public Service Division, Ms Goh is "familiar with governance matters related to finance, procurement and human resources".

Mr Chan explained the audit observations of the AGO are given to each ministry's permanent secretary, who is responsible for addressing the findings to the AGO.

"The audit process generally does not involve political office-holders. There is generally no conflict of interest between AGO and the ministries in audits."

He added: "Where there is a potential conflict of interest, there are specific processes to manage this, just as in any professional organisation."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2019, with the headline 'No conflict of interest between AGO and ministries in audits: Chan'. Print Edition | Subscribe