MP Pritam Singh

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied): Thank you, Mr Speaker. And thank you to Minister Indranee and Minister Edwin Tong for replying my Parliamentary Questions. I have supplementary questions for Question Nos 4 and 7.

For Question No 4 to Minister Indranee, this year’s AGO report was unusual in that there were a number of Ministries and Statutory Boards observed to have documents altered, backdated, artificially created or falsified. Hence, my Parliamentary Question was to inquire into the number of investigations and individuals involved, to get a better extent of the size of these infractions and the number of people involved. In view of information that the Minister has just shared and her reply that efforts will be stepped up to resolve some of these issues, can the Minister share what is the nature of these efforts, do they include more frequent internal audits, for example, or intensive contract management and procurement-related training programmes for the relevant personnel?

To Minister Edwin Tong, two questions. I understand that PA’s internal investigation went beyond the test checks that were done for the contract variations with regard to the two development projects. Can I confirm that PA also will be making an announcement on the results of these findings when the investigations are complete, in view of the statement that was released on 22 July 2021.

The second supplementary question for Minister Tong is: is there a process or procedure in place to bar companies including managing agents for all Government-related tenders that are found to have been flagged out by AGO for significant irregularities, for example, like the managing agent identified at paragraph 56 of the AGO report which found irregularities in more than 90% of payments that were test checked?

The Second Minister for Finance (Ms Indranee Rajah): Mr Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his supplementary questions. He had asked what efforts are being taken to address this because there were a number of infractions across various Ministries and agencies.

I think we can break it down to two responses that would be appropriate. As you can see from the lapses, one is a process problem. For the process problem, the key is to be able to pick this up as quickly and as efficiently as possible. And the key to that is lies in having more automated processes.

As I had indicated in my earlier answer, what we are doing is to have more process improvements and to deploy more central IT infrastructure and common services to facilitate regular reviews. That way, hopefully, you minimise human error and you are able to flag up the inconsistencies or the red flags as and when they occur.

The second and the more important one is really the people part. Partly, it is building capability, but the other part is impressing upon public officers the importance of doing this well and carrying out these functions well, so that in fact, they internalise it. The Public Service has in place platforms such as sharing sessions and training programmes to educate and engage the officers on the importance of maintaining the high standards of personal conduct and upholding the integrity of the Public Service. And the leaders in the Public Service will continue to emphasise to their officers that misconduct is viewed seriously and will not be condoned; and will also remind them that there are internal avenues to report wrongdoing and fraudulent acts, if these occur and if the reporting is made in good faith.

In addition, Heads of Agencies will prioritise and intensify our internal audits to look out for any such wrongdoing. And when such issues are detected, we will deal with them decisively.

So, our public officers, do recognise that public accountability remains a top priority for the Government and they are committed to addressing the lapses identified and resolving the problem at the root and this includes strengthening organisational, capabilities, systems and processes to prevent future recurrence.

The Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law (Mr Edwin Tong Chun Fai): Mr Speaker, on Mr Singh’s two questions, the first is yes. When we have completed the review and made the resolutions on the remaining contract variation issues that we will look at for the remaining contracts, we will make the appropriate disclosures.

Second, in relation to the second question on whether we will take into account findings, all of such findings will be appropriately addressed. There is a framework to consider, to assess when tenderers come in to make bids. All of these, including the antecedent behaviour of a particular individual or contractor, will be taken into account when assessing and judging on these bids.

Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
13 September 2021

%d bloggers like this: