Procurement lapses in Singapore government, audit finds

24 July 2019

Singapore’s Auditor General Office (AGO) has accused several ministries and government agencies of weaknesses in IT controls and irregularities in procurement and contract management.

The AGO’s latest annual report audited the financial statements of all 16 ministries, nine statutory boards, four government funds and four government-owned companies.

Lapses in management of contract variations and in the evaluation of tenders and quotations were found across public sector procurement and contract management.

Among the most typical errors identified were failing to obtain approval before carrying out variations on contracts and failing to assess the reasonableness of costs on contract variations.

Other weaknesses included accepting tender documents after tenders had closed, wrongly calculating evaluation scores and failing to evaluate proposals against published evaluation criteria.

“In some cases the awarded vendor could have been different had the tenders/quotations been administered and evaluated properly,” said the report.

Weaknesses in IT controls included inadequate monitoring and review of privileged users’ activities in IT systems.

The report also singled out poor management of user access rights, which were often not granted strictly on a needs-only basis.

It noted that similar issues had been found across a variety of public sector bodies audited over the last few years.

“Some of the lapses highlighted in this report, such as weaknesses in IT controls and lapses in procurement and contract management, were similar to those reported last year, although the lapses involved different entities,” said the report.

It emphasised that the public sector needed to avoid repeating similar failures and implement effective measures and lapses in procurement.

The Ministry of Finance said it is already working with public sector entities to remedy the weaknesses identified in the audits.

Measures put in place include raising awareness of project management and contract management rules and strengthening internal audits.

The ministry also plans to train civil servants in areas like project management and contract management and increase the number and types of internal IT audits.

“I am pleased to note that the public sector entities audited by AGO take the audit observations seriously and are committed to taking concrete steps to rectify the lapses and weaknesses,” said the auditor general.

Ministries criticised in the report included the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), Ministry of National Development and Urban Redevelopment Authority, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Manpower.

MCCY was flagged for lapses in the approval of 142 contract variations amounting to $12.4m for the National Gallery development project.

The AGO found that the approvals were not obtained from the relevant authorities for periods ranging from 30 days to almost four years after the commencement or completion of works.

Procurement and contract management irregularities were also found at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

Muis was found to have failed to use evaluation sub-criteria and scoring methodology until after the tender closed – a situation that affected 12 tenders and quotations worth $5.54m.

Muis responded by saying it was strengthening training in governance and finance for its officers and increasing the resources allocated to procurement and IT-related functions.

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