Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Question Of Values

One of China's most acclaimed novelists, Yu Hua, recalled a story of the university student who hurled a rock as troops surged into Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. When his father, a colonel in the People's Liberation Army, was weeping at the sight of his son's bullet ridden body, he was asked, "Was he a victim of friendly fire? Or was he a rioter?" The answer could determine the future of the colonel's army career. The father did not flinch, "He was a rioter."

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.


  1. Two points: 1) Is the MoM into lending nowadays? If so thye are really lousy ah longs, shud learn from the "would-class" IRS when it comes to collection, even 1 cent they will want to collect, and here we are talking half a million over 15 years - imagine the interests lost

    2) I presume the AG goes visiting to each ministry every year or at least every other year, why wasn't this discovered earlier? The AG is getting slack? Do should consider hiring that accountant who couldn't afford to pay for his old man's funeral - I am not joking - you have wet behind the ears accountants who cannot get into a big 4 supervised by unmotivated scholars eager not to offend Kee Chiu's buddy and Amy, you will not hear the full story, only people who have nothing to lose will dig it all out for us.

  2. All the misappropriations happening every year, and you still expect people to trust that your CPF and SWF are all in tact? Even the small Ministries can make mistakes (deliberate or otherwise).

    Honestly, if they only do their job every 5 years, then what do they do every other year exactly?

  3. NKF accounts were audited by the Auditor-General and they did not pick up the shennigans of NKF during Durai's time. Now, it still appears that the Auditor-General is not really capable of picking up lapses in good practice. Perhaps, the remit of the Auditor-General needs an overhaul. Or maybe, the Auditor-General is just not suited for such a job.

  4. As those of us involved in budgeting knows, each year a certain amount of funds is allocated for different departments, divisions or however the company or business is structured.

    In some cases, the amount allocated is dependent on previous year's amount. There will also be targets to meet such as cost cutting in terms of percentage.

    So it depends of the head of that department. If he/she wants to maintain status quo, any remaining funds must be spent, otherwise the next year's budget will be reduced.

    Therefore, spend lah! buy things that has not yet served their life span etc. And if the boss notices that stationery costs has risen, a target to reduce it will be the flavour of the year. From conqueror paper to thin copy paper.

    But the savings from this will be creatively pumped into: New Chairs!! ta--dah!!

    No corruption/No wrong doing/no blow jobs.

    But procurement is questionable

  5. What is the use of an Audit-General if our PAP Govt represented by our PM still insist that approving a loan from MAS is not the same as borrowing from our Govt and therefore needs neither the President's approval nor Parliament's approval ?

    And they have a law to take care of that ? And our President just nod his head without a single objection ... so unlike our much respected part President Ong Teng Cheong ? No wonder this President got booed ?

    Did PAP shortchange Singaporeans about the what a responsible President is supposed to do ?

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