The lecturer of a local polytechnic recalled his head of department had walked into his room one day to announce that everybody was getting new chairs. When he said his was still as good as new, the HOD took a box cutter from his desk and sliced into the leather, "You need a new chair now." The lecturer preferred to keep quiet, as his retirement was due in two years' time. Who had more to lose, the soldier or the academic?
The Auditor-General's Office (AGO) says that it aims to audit the larger statutory boards at least once every 5 years and other statutory boards at least once every 7 years. The audit frequency cycle obviously requires improvement as illustrated by the case where the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) delayed collecting a $501,998 debt for over 15 years. When their officers finally decided to get off from their Herman Miller chairs to recover the sum of money, the company disputed the debt owed but the Ministry did not have the necessary paperwork to "substantiate the debt". More likely the the paper trail disappeared during the long lost years. It was also a long time before the public got wind of the MOM's taste in expensive office furniture. By then, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had already procured 200 chairs at $597 each for a total of $119,400 from the same supplier, Xtra Office Pte Ltd, in March 2012. The AGC also bought 350 chairs costing $155, clear evidence that there are less expensive alternatives.
We are told that, to safeguard the independence of the Auditor-General, he is appointed by the President and not by the Government, whose accounts are subject to his audit. The same President whose salary was designed and approved by the Ministerial Salary Review Committee appointed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after GE 2011. Like the audit frequency, 5 years may be too long an interval to wait to take out the trash.