Friday, 26 July 2013

Paying high salaries to mitigate corruption


Update 19 Dec 2015: HIGH SALARIES WILL PREVENT CORRUPTION, REALLY?

What do the following people have in common?

Wee Toon Boon, Phey Yew Kok, Teh Cheang Wan, SCDF Commissioner Peter Lim, Principal Koh Yong Chiah, MFA Chief of Protocol Lim Cheng Hoe

PAP claimed that paying high salaries to politicians and civil servants will prevent corruption. We have seen many civil servants committing money and sexual corruption despite their high salaries. Can we trust what the PAP preach? High salary equals no corruption? How true is this

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Ex-principal admits to giving false info to MOE
Koh Yong Chiah (above) lied to cluster superintendent Chia Ban Tin on Nov 24, 2005, that he was not having an affair with school service provider Ivy Loke Wai Lin. As the final approving authority at Jurong Junior College and River Valley High, he had awarded millions of dollars in school contracts to Ms Loke's firms.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Former River Valley High principal Koh Yong Chiah, who lied about an extramarital affair with a vendor to whom he awarded millions of dollars in school contracts, pleaded guilty yesterday to giving false information to a Ministry of Education (MOE) senior officer.

The 61-year-old educator of 35 years' service, who had been principal of four schools since 1995, lied to cluster superintendent Chia Ban Tin on Nov 24, 2005, that he was not having an affair with school service provider Ivy Loke Wai Lin, 55.

Ms Chia, who had been tasked to inquire into an anonymous complaint against Koh for alleged misconduct, then reported to the Director General of Education that there had been no such misconduct. Koh was then principal of Jurong Junior College (JJC). He later became head of River Valley High in 2009.

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SCHOOL PRINCIPAL CONVICTED OF AWARDING $3.2 MILLION WORTH OF CONTRACTS TO MISTRESS' COMPANY

Former RVHS principal Koh Yong Chia was convicted of providing false information to the senior MOE official about his extramarital affair with school vendor Loke Wai Lin. Koh had over a 7 year period awarded $3.2 million worth of contracts to companies owned by Ms Loke

Koh was principal of JJC from January 2003 to December 2009. After which he transferred to River Valley High School in Dec 2009. Ms Loke was the director and majority shareholder in companies EA 21 and EI which provided education services to schools.

Ms Loke was with TCS when she first approached Koh Yong Chia to take part in an overseas community project in 2000. Soon a mutual attraction developed between the two and they had sex during a school trip to Lijiang, China. Loke subsequently divorced her husband in 2005

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Can high salary curb corruption?


Most highly paid bosses head the most corrupt organisations, according to bribery survey

Anti-corruption activists, MPs, and the general public are divided over Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) Executive Director Jennifer Musisi’s claim that being paid highly deters corruption.

In an interview with The Independent (Issue 178 “Jennifer Musisi wants to be judged on results”), Musisi said it is better to be paid a high salary than earn little officially but illegally earn millions through corrupt means.

She says the Shs 43 million she wants to be paid is nothing compared to the revenues she has recovered and will still recover that KCCA has been losing to corruption. She insists that most civil servants are corrupt and inefficient because they are paid low wages and yet, like everybody else, they have to meet their basic needs at the end of the day.


Don’t expect much from ministers despite their high pay


It was reported yesterday that an assistant-director with the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau was charged with corruption. 39-year-old Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong was charged with 21 criminal counts with alleged misappropriation of more than $1.76 million dollars in public funds and blowing part of the sum at the Marina Bay Sands casino.

When a fiasco of such magnitude happens, the knives usually come out quickly, and one particular outlet where the public vents its anger is this – why our ministers with their high pay can allow this to happen? It is to this end that we would like to bring to readers’ attention a seminal article by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic published in the Harvard Business Review blog network. Tomas is an international authority in personality profiling and psychometric testing. He is currently a Professor of Business Psychology at the University College London. In April 2013, he published an article titled “Does money affect motivation? A review of research”. As the title of his article suggests, Tomas explored the impact of pay on motivation in workers.

We have always wanted to discuss this article since its publication in April, but there wasn’t a ripe occasion for it. However, when news of Yeo’s corruption charges broke out, it presented us with a suitable opportunity.

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Opposition member Lina Chiam on CPIB case: Revise gov't policy of high salaries
Lina Chiam has been elected as Chairman of SPP. (Yahoo! photo/ Alicia Wong)

The Chairman of Singapore People’s Party (SPP), Lina Chiam, is the first opposition member to comment on the recent graft case involving a senior officer in the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong, 39, was charged for misappropriating a total of S$1.76 million on Wednesday, and was released later that evening with a bail of S$500,000. His passport was impounded.

Chiam, who is also a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP), released a statement on the opposition party’s website, which also referred to other recent corruption-related offences among civil servants

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High pay for better talents?
(Photo by Luis Ascui/Getty Images)

In late 1994 the Goh Chok Tong government adopted a policy of giving cabinet ministers, parliament members, senior civil servants and other public sector employees (e.g., at the time university professors were included, but they were subsequently decoupled from civil service salary scales.) higher levels of pay, on the twin grounds that salaries competitive to those prevailing in the business and professional sectors are necessary to attract managerial and other talent into politics, and better paid public employees are less likely to engage in corruption. (The old article by Catherine Lim was triggered by the action, but it then went into territory sufficiently controversial to produce a reprimand from Goh Chok Tong himself – a major event then but today mostly forgotten.)

The need to match political salaries with business levels reflects a basic feature of the Singapore “system”, namely the inter-twining of public and commercial sector careers. With the government in control of a large sector of the Singapore economy through share ownership, many civil servants, army officers, even some professors, receive board directorships and executive positions in commercial companies, while in the reverse direction business executives, professionals, and, again, academics, have been recruited as PAP parliamentary candidates. Going into politics is largely an extension of one’s previous career, like promotion from line staff into the executive circle as reward for good performance, rather than a separate calling due to strong ideological commitment to a particular set of political beliefs.

The assumption underlying the system is that the Singapore government’s main task is to manage the economy, so that parliament members and cabinet ministers need to have the relevant experiences, which are best judged by their previous educational background and management related performance. One could say that the cabinet sees itself as the board of directors of Singapore Inc, working on behalf of its citizen shareholders, with parliament acting as a kind of “nominating committee”, since you need to get its majority support to gain power.

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Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research
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How much should people earn? Even if resources were unlimited, it would be difficult to stipulate your ideal salary. Intuitively, one would think that higher pay should produce better results, but scientific evidence indicates that the link between compensation, motivation and performance is much more complex. In fact, research suggests that even if we let people decide how much they should earn, they would probably not enjoy their job more.

Even those who highlight the motivational effects of money accept that pay alone is not sufficient. The basic questions are: Does money make our jobs more enjoyable? Or can higher salaries actually demotivate us?

Let’s start with the first: does money engage us? The most compelling answer to this question is a meta-analysis by Tim Judge and colleagues. The authors reviewed 120 years of research to synthesize the findings from 92 quantitative studies. The combined dataset included over 15,000 individuals and 115 correlation coefficients.

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Key myths about corruption

Corruption has been one of the major international concerns of the past decade. It is an issue that affects all countries, rich and poor, in different ways and to differing degrees. Exactly how corruption affects particular societies has, however, been the subject of some discussion in the literature. The major international institutions promoting governance reforms have, for example, persistently argued that corruption has a direct negative impact upon overall economic growth levels and can depress the climate for attracting international investment; although these are far from universally-held assumptions, even in the mainstream economics literature.

Amidst heightened international concern for tackling the abject poverty which continues to affect such large sections of humanity (expressed most clearly in the evolution of the millennium development goals or MDGs), perhaps the most important concern that has been expressed about corruption is that it disproportionately affects the poor and marginalized, through excluding them from access to services or reducing the funds available for direct use in social programmes. Donor-country fears over corruption in the handling of development aid monies may also act to erode the political will necessary to ensure adequate international funding of the actions needed to meet MDG targets, whilst within Southern countries perceptions of widespread corruption within political life can act decisively to depress popular support for state reforms and/or open democratic political systems.

Clearly, then, corruption – its extent, nature, dynamics, causation and how it might be tackled – is an issue of fundamental importance to those working in the field of international development. One of the things noticeable on a first exploration of the literature on corruption and development is the singular lack of attention that was devoted to the issue for most of the period since the second world war and, in turn, the sudden rediscovery of the issue towards the end of the 1980s and the explosion of international legislative initiatives, institutional formation and academic work that has occurred since then.

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Graft - A really bad slip!

Singapore’s struggle to keep its rank as the world’s 5th least corrupt country takes a knock on the head.

The arrest of a top anti-corruption officer raises more public doubts that high salaries prevent government corruption.

Under all criminal conditions, one body – the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) which originated under British rule – has steadfastly remained a pillar most Singaporeans feel they can rely on to ensure integrity.

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Corruption, Embezzlement and Cleaning Up the Civil Service

Yet another case of wrongdoing for personal gain in the civil service. CPIB chief Eric Tan did the right thing by humbly apologising for the actions of his officer but that is not enough for a public tired of cases of fallen civil servants abusing their authority.

CPIB has been busy. Ng Boon Gay was acquited although his name was dragged in the mud before cleared of co being corruption. Former SCDF chief Peter Lim was sentenced to 6 month jail for his sex for contracts scandal. NUS lecturer Tey Tsun Hang went to prison for 5 months for his sex for grades scandal. Earlier this year, an assistant director in MDA was cooperating with CPIB as he was accused of asking for bribes from those who applied for grants from MDA.

Now, an assistant director in the CPIB is charged with criminal breach of trust as he pocketed $1.7 million, with about $240,000 of it gambled away at MBS. The amount is huge by most standards, albeit the highest amount of money embezzled by tainted civil servants was $12 million by 2 SLA staff who were sentenced in 2010 to 22 and 15 years.

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One Man's View

During small talk at a wake last year, somebody was awfully confident about the outcomes of the corruption cases concerning Peter Lim (Singapore Civil Defence Force) and Ng Boon Gay (Central Narcotics Bureau). Sure enough, Lim was jailed and Ng was acquitted. The whiff of intrigue spelt power play at high levels.

PM Lee's sacking of CPIB Director Eric Tan over a mere $1.7 million embezzled by Edwin Yeo, an Assistant Director, confirms the rot is indeed well entrenched and system wide. After all, not a whimper was raised when Balakrishnan blew $387 million.

The following 2012 account culled from the internet may fit Ng Eng Hen's definition of DRUMS - Distortions, Rumours, Untruths, Misinformation and Smears -  but as they say, there's no smoke without fire. The curious observer will note that all the component parts, warts and all, form a perfect fit.

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The Downfall of Eric Tan, CPIB Director

The announcement of the replacement of Eric Tan, CPIB director for supervisory lapses in order to rebuild public trust in the bureau hit recently by a $1.7 million scandal did not take the public by surprise. That he had been completely in the dark as CPIB director when his enterprising assistant director at the bureau, Edwin Yeo Swee Hong, was siphoning off bureau funds to the tune of $1.7 million meant for the bureau operations from 2008 until his ruse was uncovered last year is mind-boggling. So his replacement as CPIB director is only a natural corollary of his supervisory lapses, otherwise the Government will find itself in an untenable position to try to rebuild public trust in the bureau. That Edwin Yeo had been able to embezzle bureau funds for four years without detection under the watchful eye of his director is more in the nature of a fiction.

From past observation of his highfalutin character, especially in his high-handed handling of the invited guest list of former CPIB directors in connection with the 60th anniversary celebration of the bureau, he stood out as a director of pomposity, totally bereft of humility and civility. In a fit of funkiness, he decided to exclude  me,as a former CPIB director, from the anniversary celebration in order to ingratiate himself into the favour of the former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew who was a guest of honour at the celebration. Eric Tan had a morbid fear that my presence would cause great embarrassment to his honoured guest Lee Kuan Yew because of our mutual antagonism.

I was however not sore that I was excluded but was livid that Eric Tan had not the civility inform me beforehand and I had to learn about it after the celebration from the press report. I wrote to him in the most civilised manner requesting an explanation but he persisted in his arrogance in not even replying to my letter, much less to offer any apology. To add to his impudence, he had the gall to get his man to leave an unsigned copy of the anniversary coffee table book at my doorstep. There were blog postings both by me and by TR Emeritus castigating Eric Tan for his arrogance and his lack of civility.

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WDA CEO Wong Hong Kuan to succeed Eric Tan as CPIB director


Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) will have a director-designate from 1 September.

He is the current chief executive of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, Wong Hong Kuan

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office said an independent review panel had reported that supervisory lapses in CPIB had resulted in deficiencies in financial controls and the loss of public funds

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Yeo allegedly started by taking $1,200 from CPIB


It all started with $1,200 from the coffers of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

Apparently when Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong allegedly took the money in 2008, no one noticed. That only made the CPIB officer more brazen.

The sums he allegedly misappropriated ballooned from year to year - from $95,000 in 2009, to $106,000 the next year, and $320,000 in 2011. Last year, he allegedly siphoned about $1.2 million.

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DPM Teo: Latest high profile CPIB case 'particularly serious'
<span>DPM Teo Chee Hean acknowledged public concern over the n</span><span>umber of high profile graft cases involving civil servants.</span>
UPDATED at 2:15pm: adding comments from Law Minister K Shanmugam

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Wednesday called the latest graft case involving a senior civil servant "particularly serious".

In a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office shortly after 39-year-old Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) officer Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong was charged in court with misappropriating more than S$1.7 million from the anti-graft agency, the minister outlined a series of measures that will be taken in light of the case.

These include a study of recent instances of misbehaviour within the civil service, as well as an independent review audit to examine the source of the lapses that occurred within the CPIB that allowed Yeo's alleged crimes to happen.

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CPIB director 'deeply sorry' for lapse

In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, CPIB director Eric Tan said he was "deeply sorry" that the lapse occurred on his watch. "As the most senior officer in the agency, I accept responsibility for any lapses or deficiencies which allowed a senior staff's actions to go undetected for four years," he said. "CPIB will learn from this. It will strengthen its safeguards and improve its processes to prevent this from happening again."

According to the CPIB, its officers are required to file annual declarations regarding their financial liabilities, and to confirm that they are free from financial embarrassment -- a process required of other public officers as well. In Yeo's case, however, the CPIB said there were instances where these procedures and declarations were circumvented.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has appointed an independent review panel to look at the possible lapses into the agency's audit system and financial procedures, said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office


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CPIB chief 'deeply sorry', system strengthed
CPIB chief ‘deeply sorry’, system strengthened

Staff at the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) now undergo mandatory credit bureau checks and those holding key positions have enforced job rotation.

These are among the tightened financial and audit procedures put in place at the bureau, following an independent review conducted after the alleged misdeeds of CPIB officer Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong.

Movement of operational funds associated with the CPIB’s Field Research and Technical Support Branch — where Yeo was the Assistant Director — and how the funds are used is now tracked more closely. The number of senior supervisory staff there has also been increased, in line with recommendations by the independent review panel, the CPIB said

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SHANMUGAM ON RECENT CORRUPTION CASES: SINGAPOREANS ARE ‘HUMANS’ AS WELL

The recent spate of high-profile corruption cases involving senior civil servants and leaders of the establishment has set some Singaporeans questioning if Singapore is that ‘clean’ after all

However, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam uses ‘human nature’ to deflect public concerns, saying that “corruption and falling to temptation are basic vices that have existed since time immemorial.”

“Like in all societies, and in Singapore as well, there have always been people who have been corrupt. There will always be people who will be corrupt,” Mr Shanmugam said.

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PM's Office statement on CPIB officer case

The Prime Minister’s Office has released a statement on the case involving Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) Assistant Director Edwin Yeo, who was charged in court today (July 24) with 21 counts of criminal breach of trust, forgery and misappropriating property involving S$1.7 million.

related:
1 in 5 CPIB probes involve public officers
Previous cases of crooked CPIB officers in the last 20 years

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$1.7 million worth of questions the government is disinclined to answer
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The day Edwin Yeo was charged in court, the media provided a glimpse of the facts:

  • An assistant director of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) has been charged with 21 offences, including misappropriation and forgery.
  • 39-year-old Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong is accused of eight counts of misappropriation totalling more than S$1.7 million.
  • Of that sum, almost S$1.1 million was meant for goods and services for his Field Research and Technical Support department. S$470,300 was meant for the department’s operational expenses, and S$151,900 for unspecified purposes.
  • On top of that, Yeo is accused of misappropriating S$46,700 worth of vehicles — two Honda Civic cars and two Honda motorcycles.
  • Yeo also faces one count of forgery.
  • – Channel NewsAsia, 24 July 2013, CPIB assistant director charged with misappropriating S$1.7m. Link.
Of the sum embezzled, only $67,000 has been recovered.

What I find staggering is that the alleged offences took place over four years 2008 to 2012, and even includes “misappropriating” two cars and a motorcycle. The Straits Times reported that it was a whistle-blower who alerted the CPIB to the case, not that it was discovered in the course of an annual audit. This seriously undermines confidence in audits of government agencies. How can large fixed assets like cars go missing without anyone noticing?

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Hypocrisy

Carry on to what the AGO has done, it is reported that there are multiple issues with money (again) concerning multiple agencies. So what if the report is published? Some, like the National Research Fund or NRF simply release a statement saying controls will be tightened. That’s all? Given the huge amount of money involve, shouldn’t a more detailed investigation be carried out and punishments executed accordingly? All these issues are obviously due to lax controls and irresponsibility of the personnel involve. This is especially important in light of the recent fraud cases.

One of the issues includes unauthorized payments from the Pension fund by MINDEF!! While it is stated the money is restored to the fund, where did that money came from then? Another point reads the Ministry of Foreign Affairs failing to check the reasonable of prices quoted for some security services, which resulted in over payment due to ‘tight timeline’. Such a reason is not a good explanation. Is this how taxpayer’s money shall be spent? Freely spending without a care in the world and no checks and balances? How many more fraud cases could there be uncovered? Mind you, the report states problems not with just one or two or even three agencies. The problems spread across multiple government agencies like virus in stage 4 cancer.

To be fair, I applaud the AGO for publishing their findings. Reading into the report only makes my blood boils. Overpayment of this, over valuation that

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CPIB officer charged: Another public servant bites the dust?

What on earth is happening to our public servants? You have the head of civil defence jailed in a case of sex for contracts, a former prosecutor behind bars for sex with an underaged girl, a prison’s deputy superintendent fined for neglecting to supervise the take down of an inmate which caused his death, a police officer arrested for double murders and now a CPIB officer charged for fraud involving $1.7m of public funds?

The irony of it all: The watcher needs watching!

The case, of course, pales in comparison with the infamous SLA case in 2011 involving Koh Seah Wee, a former Singapore Land Authority Deputy Director who was jailed 22 years, and former SLA manager Christopher Lim Chai Meng, jailed for 15 years for cheating and money laundering. They had cheated more than $12.1 million from the statutory board. But still…!

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CPIB officer faces fraud charges: tip of the iceberg?

Though senior civil servants are very well-paid, they also observe that the Prime Minister is the highest paid head of state in the world for governing only 700 sq km of territory, outstripping even Obama, Cameron and Merkel.

Even Ministers, the quiet President are paid humongous salaries. This huge divide between the politicians and the non-politicians has given rise to envy especially when the ruling party’s core value is not one of transparency. And when people read about politicians buying multi-millions properties with cash as if they are buying a shirt, envy is stoked further and questions asked.

If-politicians-take-such-a-large-slice -of- the-cake-why-can’t- I mentality is then fostered

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Corruption in the CPIB

I kinda recall as kid that teachers, police officers and civil servants were not permitted to indulge in common vices, which gambling was one. So why was this Assistant Director of CPIB Edwin Yeo patronising the casino at MBS?

No point speculating and jumping the gun. The PM said the Head of the Civil Service will report the findings of the inquiry by the end of this week.

Common sense informed me that if you want to stay out of trouble don't go near nests where troubles breed. The IRs are definitely one of those places. Officers trying to test their ability to endure temptation should be disciplined. Why wait till they succumbed? This time it is just money, another time it might be our national security

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1 in 5 corrupt cases involves a public officer and DPM Teo says that is "low"

Firstly, a number of these crooks in public office were high ranking officers. For all the talk by the PAP that paying them high will attract the best talent and keep the corrupt away, the stats show otherwise. What the high pay system simply does is that it attracts the very crooks who the govt is supposedly trying to keep them at bay. But if one were to think carefully, isn't the money bait attracting these crooks in the first place?

Secondly, again for all the talk and mocking at our northern neighbours that their public servants are corrupt, our system is no different. 

Finally, I can't help but laugh at DPM's inferred statement that 20% of the crook population represents public officers is considered a "low" figure

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PMO: Corruption cases involving public officers have remained low

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a public statement today (24 Jul) on the case of a senior CPIB officer being charged with misappropriating $1.7 million of public funds.

PMO said, “We take a very serious view of this case, especially because the officer was from an agency whose mission is to uphold the integrity of our system.”

CPIB first uncovered the alleged wrong-doing in September last year. As the accused was a CPIB officer and the alleged financial impropriety could have amounted to a criminal offence, the matter was reported to the Commercial Affairs Department, which carried out the investigation. PMO said that this was to ensure an impartial and thorough investigation.

related:

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Game Over

The 15-year CPIB veteran and Assistant Director of Field Research and Technical Support was overheard by photographers muttering "game over, game over" as he left the Subordinate Court after being charged for embezzling the watchdog CPIB of over $1.7 million.

He must have thought it real funny to be awarded a Commendation Medal (Pingat Kepulian) from the Prime Minister's Office in 2010, when he had already gamed the system of $1,200 (2008), $94,703 (2009) and $56,002 plus $50,825 (2010). Medal in hand, he was emboldened to help himself to more, $323,613 and $370,755 in 2011 and $716,768 in 2012. And where did he spend most of the free money?

The biggest gaming center of all, the casino at Marina Bay Sands, brought to you by those ministers on the pretext of creating more jobs for locals.

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The most effective govt tool

Well the latest case of corruption of an Assistant Director in CPIB is another unfortunate thing to happen. There are so few of such cases happening so no one should be unduly alarmed. After all we are a very young nation and such lapses are teething problems in a young country and a young administrative service. Some are saying that perhaps such officers succumbed to temptations as they are not paid enough. The high cost of living must have affected them and resorting to corruption to get by is understandable.

But have no fear. The Govt has a very effective management tool to curb such indiscretions and wayward ways. It is called review panels. Another review panel has been set up to look into the corruption case in the CPIB. More such panels will be set up along the way to take care of such hitches whenever they arise and things will be smooth running again.

The review panel will be able to find out everything that went wrong and will come up with a list of recommendations to clean up the problems. It would be nice if review panels are formed in advance before something happens. Can save a lot of money and time and embarrassments.

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Fair Enough Eric Tan, Congrats George Yeo

In another high profile case involving senior civil servants, an Assistant Director of the CPIB or 'Uncle Sam' to use it's Civil Service jargon, was charged in court on Wednesday, 24th June 2013 with 21 counts including embezzlement, cheating and forgery. Edwin Yeo, 39, was in charge of Uncle Sam's, field research and technical unit and stands accused of swiping close to $1.76 million dollars over a four year stretch

However unlike the cases involving police officers, it's chief, Eric Tan, Uncle Sam's Director, did not hesitate to acknowledge responsibility and apologise for it. In a statement released the same day, he said he was deeply sorry for 'the lapse that occurred under his watch'. He went on to say:

'As the most senior officer of the agency, I accept responsibility for any lapses and deficiencies which allowed a senior staff's actions to go undetected for 4 years'. "CPIB will learn from this. It will strengthen its safeguards and improve its processes to prevent this from happening again'.

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More than 100 procurement irregularities found in NRF

The Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) has just released the “Report of the Auditor-General for the Financial Year 2012/13″ [Link]. In the report, the Auditor-General revealed that there were more than 100 instances of irregularities in National Research Foundation’s (NRF) procurement and payment process while constructing its building.

One of the most glaring was the waiver of tender for project management services to build its building. The contract value for the service was $2.25 million. It was awarded to a vendor “based mainly on a recommendation”.

This happened when Dr Tony Tan was the Chairman of NRF. He was NRF Chairman since the Foundation’s inception in Jan 2006. Dr Tan resigned from NRF on 31 Aug 2011. He was sworn in as President of Singapore on 1 Sep 2011.

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Auditor General: Breaches of Law in Prime Minister’s Office

Barely a week after Lee Hsien Loong spoke of integrity and the importance of admitting ones mistakes, the Auditor General released his annual report and gave the PM the perfect opportunity to practice what he preached.

The report for 2012/13 cites more than two dozen incidents relating to contracts worth almost S$300M where the PMO’s National Research Foundation appear to be in violation of The Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act. While the PM himself is not directly implicated, the failure of a department under his oversight to abide by its legal and contractual obligations clearly raises significant questions.

Will the PM or his office stand up for their integrity and admit to these mistakes – as the PM has urged his political opponents to do over much smaller matters – or will a hypocritical silence be maintained? To quote the Auditor General’s report directly, under the heading “Prime Minister’s Office”:

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Why So Long?

In the latest case of financial and criminal wrongdoing by a member of the Singapore Police Force (SPF), a senior officer from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) was charged in court this morning for misappropriating $1.76 million between 2008 and last year.

Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong, 39, was the head of field research and technical support at CPIB when the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) caught wind of his gambling activities in Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino. Mr. Yeo was then suspended his duties at the CPIB amid an investigation into his suspected financial wrongdoings.

Once the news broke this morning, the Singapore government launch in damage control mode. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has appointed an independent review panel to look at the possible lapses into the agency's audit system and financial procedures, while Deputy PM Teo Chee Hean

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Public sector procurement lapses: stop throwing away public money

I’m not in the least surprised by the procurement lapses by government agencies and ministries. This is in keeping with lapses elsewhere with government policies eg. the influx of foreigners, the granting of PR and citizenship, phantom workers issues and so on.

One of the reasons is that there is too much money flushing around in the system, and government agencies and ministries are too preoccupied with raising revenue to be able to exercise proper oversight.

That is how the Singapore Land Authority and two other public agencies could be swindled to the tune of millions of dollars. And this could be the tip of the iceberg.

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A civil service report card

Going through the Auditor-General’s report is always good fun. As fun as going through the MP-driven Public Accounts Committee report. Lest anyone thinks they are all about numbers, they are more than just that. They give us a peek at the workings of the public service and tell us what went wrong, rather than what went right. This is a trifle unfair, you may think, because our public service is simply excellent and a byword for efficiency. Internationally lauded. Number 1. Yadayada.

So perhaps mere mortals can be forgiven for smirking at lapses…

The media went to town with the report, highlighting in particular that Auditor-General’s concern over “procurement lapses”. In a year when tenders and contracts are making the news in all the bad ways, it’s no wonder that the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) has trained his sights on this aspect. Then again, he’s been doing so for the past seven years or so.

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Government continues to suffer procurement lapses: auditor-general
Despite attempts in recent years to improve, numerous government agencies and affiliated organisations continue to suffer from procurement lapses, said the Auditor-General on Wednesday in his annual report. (AFP file photo)

The government, its statutory boards, agencies and affiliated companies continue to flout procurement rules despite efforts in recent years to improve, said Singapore's auditor-general's office (AGO).

In his annual report based on the financial year ending March 2013, Auditor-General Willie Tan noted that "some entities were not sufficiently diligent in ensuring compliance with procurement rules".

These lapses included waiving competition on weak grounds, allowing certain bidders to make key changes to their bids after the closure of tenders, not disclosing evaluation criteria up-front in tender documents, not evaluating tenders properly and obtaining approvals after actions had already been made

related:

Committee raises concerns over procurement ‘lapses’ in public sector

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Government agencies still prone to lapses
Government agencies still prone to lapses
A man using a fitness corner for training. The Auditor-General’s Office observed that there were many lapses in procurement processes by government agencies, including the Defence Ministry, which was in charge of handling the improvement of certain fitness facilities (Photo: Screen grab from YouTube) 

The latest annual report from the Auditor-General’s Office, which audits the Government and the public sector, shows that there are irregularities and slip-ups in procurement processes in ministries and government agencies.

While efforts have been made to enhance procurement rules over the last few years, some government bodies have not been diligent enough in ensuring compliance, Auditor-General Willie Tan said.

An example is in improving fitness corners authorised by the Ministry of Defence. Instead of enhancing 50 of these facilities, SAFRA, the organisation in charge, exceeded the number by 58.

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Auditor-General flags procurement lapses

SOME companies could have enjoyed an unfair advantage in tendering for public sector contracts because of the failure of certain public bodies to follow procurement policies, according to the Auditor-General's latest annual report.

Among the largest tenders in which the bidding process was deemed unfair was a $19.14 million project by Republic Polytechnic to develop an integrated academic system. After the deadline, it allowed one vendor to submit a revised proposal. It was a substantial change from the original tender, but the fact was not disclosed to the tender-approving authority and the company got the contract.

Auditor-General Willie Tan noted that the polytechnic did not consider re-calling the tender or inviting other shortlisted tenderers to submit revised bids, though this is required under government rules

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Public agencies' procurement procedures still 'prone to lapses'
Public agencies’ procurement procedures still ‘prone to lapses’
The SCDF was cited for lapses in tender evaluation while selecting vendors for works on its fire stations. TODAY file photo

Procurement irregularities continued to plague public agencies as the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) flagged these as an area “prone to lapses” for the seventh consecutive year, in its latest annual report released yesterday.

The report, which covers the 2012/13 financial year, also cited management of computer access controls, monitoring of performance of contractors, oversight of projects managed by external consultants, management of stocks and stores as other areas that require improvement.

Auditor-General Willie Tan noted that while the public sector had put in effort to enhance its procurement rules and procedures over the last few years, some public entities were “not sufficiently diligent” in ensuring compliance with the rules

related:
Among the lapses the Auditor-General’s Office report highlighted
Public agencies’ procurement still ‘prone to lapses’: Auditor-General Office

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Lapses In Procurement

The Auditor-General's report for FY2012/13 revealed lapses in the Government's procurement:
  • PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE — NATIONAL RESEARCH FOUNDATION
  • MINISTRY OF DEFENCE — SAFRA
  • MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
  • MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS — SINGAPORE CIVIL DEFENCE FORCE
AUDITOR-GENERAL: Report of the Auditor-General for the Financial Year 2012/13

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