Police investigating claims made by ex-PA officer for overseas buys

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who is PA deputy chairman, told Parliament that an independent panel to check on past overseas Chingay buys and payments had completed its investigations.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who is PA deputy chairman, told Parliament that an independent panel to check on past overseas Chingay buys and payments had completed its investigations.PHOTO: ST FILE

The police are looking into the case of a People's Association (PA) former staff member who made questionable reimbursement claims for overseas purchases for Chingay 2017, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

The Auditor-General's Office (AGO) said in July that the claims were accompanied by documents with "tell-tale signs" that cast doubt on their authenticity.

The officer had asked to be paid back for clothes and accessories bought overseas worth $142,000.

But there was no assurance that the reimbursement claimed by the officer was the actual amount he paid for the items, the AGO said.

Mr Chan, who is PA deputy chairman, told Parliament that an independent panel to check on past overseas Chingay buys and payments had completed its investigations.

"While there was no conclusive evidence there was wrongdoing, there were concerns over the authenticity of some transactions," he said, adding that PA had referred the matter to the police. "We will decide on further steps after the police complete their investigations."

Mr Chan was responding to Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang), who had asked about lapses by PA that were flagged in the AGO's report.

 
 

Mr Chan said the failure of the PA to factor in additional costs in the tenders for a Mid-Autumn Festival event in 2016 and one for Chinese New Year last year was an "administrative lapse" that had since been rectified. It resulted in the organiser of the events paying over $30,000 for expenses such as transport, as the successful bidder requested.

Mr Chan said the organiser was well aware of these additional expenses as it had been bearing the cost every year, which averaged $34,000 for each event from 2014 to 2016. However, he acknowledged the "inadequacy" of not considering the total costs in a tender.

"The organiser has acknowledged the lapse and put in place measures to avoid its recurrence," he said.

Mr Chan added that contrary to how Mr Png phrased his question, the AGO's report did not make any mention of "additional costs that were hidden in the award of contracts to the overseas tenderer".

He also noted that the AGO's observations for these events were not mentioned in past external audits.

In fact, he said, the PA's own internal audit had earlier identified that the practice of overseas procurement for Chingay did not fully comply with approved procedures, and these were immediately stopped early last year, before the AGO's audit.

Mr Chan said the PA took a serious view of the matter, and will continue to educate staff, improve practices and simplify the rules so they are easier to follow. He said: "Procedures adopted by PA must be simple, robust but not onerous... We will continue to balance the need for agility and accountability."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2018, with the headline 'Police investigating claims made by ex-PA officer for overseas buys'. Print Edition | Subscribe