AGO to review nearly half of Govt’s $72.3b Covid-19 spending in annual audit

As part of its FY2022/23 audit, the Auditor-General's Office will look at the SingapoRediscovers Vouchers scheme. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) will scrutinise some $32.3 billion spent by various agencies to fight Covid-19 as part of its annual audit of government accounts, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Monday.

Programmes being audited include the Jobs Support Scheme, Rental Relief Framework (Cash Grants), Rental Support Scheme and SingapoRediscovers Vouchers Scheme, DPM Wong said in a written reply to a parliamentary question by Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang).

This is close to half of the $72.3 billion of Covid-19 spending that the Government incurred in financial years 2020 and 2021. DPM Wong’s reply came after the Public Accounts Committee called on the Government in January to conduct a comprehensive review of its pandemic-related expenditure, given the unprecedented complexity and scale of operations.

Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister, said that more than half of the Government’s Covid-19 expenditure have been audited, including the AGO’s thematic audit of the Ministry of Manpower, the Singapore Land Authority and the Health Promotion Board in the 2021/2022 financial year.

In its report in July 2022, the AGO found that the three agencies generally had in place processes and controls to manage the different stages of procurement and contract management, but there were some lapses in evaluations of contractors’ proposals as well as tell-tale signs that some documents provided by contractors might not be authentic, among other things.

“Using a risk-based approach, AGO may choose to audit other selected areas of Covid-19 spending in their ongoing and subsequent reviews,” said Mr Wong.

Besides the AGO’s audits, public agencies have also conducted internal audits on Covid-19 spending since early 2022, said Mr Wong. These included reviews on the effectiveness of internal controls, as well as the validity and accuracy of payments.

“Findings and remedial actions from the internal audits were reported to the respective agencies’ senior management, as well as to their audit committees and boards in the case of statutory boards,” he added.

Mr Wong noted that the $72.3 billion spent went towards a broad range of areas to safeguard public health and enable safe reopening. The money also financed support measures for individuals and businesses in the form of grants, financing assistance, tax rebates and vouchers.

“The remaining audits are ongoing and are expected to be completed by the end of financial year 2024,” he said.

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