Auditor-General’s office finds IT and financial lapses in public-sector audit

“There were weaknesses in IT controls, laxity in financial controls and inadequate oversight of development projects,” observed the Singapore Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) after it audited government agencies during the financial year 2016/17.

According to the AGO report released today, “It found weaknesses in IT controls in the audits of the Central Provident Fund Board (CPFB), the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE), the National Parks Board (NParks) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). The weaknesses include inadequate review of activities in IT systems, wrongful use of privileged accounts by officers or appointed vendors and lack of review of user access rights.”

It observed, “In the audit of CPFB, AGO noted lapses in the management of the two IT security monitoring systems which tracked the activities of CPFB’s databases and systems. AGO found that for a period of time, CPFB did not monitor the IT security monitoring systems for unauthorised changes. For one IT security monitoring system, AGO’s test checks of the system logs for three months revealed that a significant percentage (about 88.7 per cent) of the changes made by the administrators were not supported by approved change requests. For the other IT security monitoring system, the alert reports generated for review of IT security violations were incomplete. These lapses could affect the effectiveness of the two IT monitoring systems in detecting IT security violations.”

In the audit of Central Provident Fund Board, AGO noted lapses in the management of the two IT security monitoring systems.
In the audit of Central Provident Fund Board, AGO noted lapses in the management of the two IT security monitoring systems. Photo : Connected to India

As far as the audit of SCORE was concerned, AGO found that two officers who were not system administrators of the payroll processing system were given privileged access which allowed them to grant and amend the access rights of all users. Such access rights were beyond their job scope.

Regarding laxity in financial controls, the AGO found lapses in organisations such as the Singapore Sports Council (SSC), SCORE and the Economic Development Board.

The AGO report pointed out, “These lapses include late payments, payments not certified by authorised officers, contracts not signed by authorised signatories, poor management of assets and grants disbursements made based on inaccurate or incomplete information.”

It added, “AGO observed that SSC’s management of sponsored electronic devices was weak. Based on test checks of records for 2,790 units of sponsored electronic devices (valued at SGD557,200) for two major sporting events, AGO found that SSC was not able to produce adequate evidence to account for the whereabouts of 1,396 units (valued at SGD224,700). There was hence no assurance that the sponsored devices were used for the intended purposes.”

The AGO also observed that there was inadequate oversight of development projects. The report said, “AGO’s audits revealed weaknesses in the management of development projects under the Ministry of Health (MOH). These include the lack of assessment of the need for and cost reasonableness of expenditure before payments were made to an agent, not ensuring that the agent adhered to the approving limits set by MOH for variations, and variation works were carried before approvals were obtained from the approving authorities.”

The report also found irregularities in Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. The report pointed out,  “AGO found irregularities in the contract management for the development of the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. AGO observed that MOH incurred expenditure of about SGD4.08 million for site supervisory staff engaged by its agent without verifying the need for and reasonableness of the expenditure. MOH also did not seek approval from its approving authority for MOH to bear the cost of the site supervisory staff engaged by its agent.”

The office audited two government ministries – the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) – one government fund and five statutory boards. 

The Auditor-General concluded by noting that the public-sector entities audited have taken the observations "seriously, and have "indicated that they are committed to rectify the lapses and put in place measures to prevent future occurrence".