LAPSES in government procurement in the past year have been investigated or are being investigated, and negligent officers have been reprimanded or warned, revealed Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.
He was referring to the release of a report on the same day by the Auditor-General's Office on audits conducted for the 2011/2012 financial year.
The 104-page report highlighted lapses in procurement, contract management and financial administration in 10 ministries and 11 statutory boards.
For example, the Ministry of Manpower was found to have given inadequate oversight in awarding a tender for the purchase of office chairs, while the National Parks Board had nine tenders - with a total value of about $70 million - approved by the wrong approving authority.
In the report, Auditor-General Lim Soo Ping said there were instances where approval was sought only after a contractual commitment was made, and instances where an authority was given inaccurate or incomplete information.
"An approving authority is a gatekeeper... This is not a perfunctory role and must not be treated (in such a manner) by procurement officers," he said. Mr Tharman, who is also Minister for Finance, noted that the majority of the procurement-related lapses highlighted in the report were not due to a lack of rules.
They were caused by the failure of public officers to follow procurement rules and principles, he said.
The Government's procurement system is in "good working order" and the rules are sound. Still, it intends to make improvements, he said.
Adjustments include the tightening of approval procedures in instances where a single bid is received. In such cases, officers responsible will need to provide additional justification to the approving authority within each agency.
This means "setting out why they consider the single bid competitive or reflective of market prices, before a decision is made to award the contract", he said.
The minimum opening period for suppliers to submit quotations for government contracts valued at between $3,000 and $70,000 will also be extended from four days to seven days.
There are about 80,000 instances of government procurement conducted annually. Projects above $70,000 make up about 96 per cent of the total value of the procurements.
|Lapses led to loss of public funds
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