Senior Minister of State for Transport and Finance Josephine Teo yesterday challenged Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) to cite instances where the Auditor- General's Office (AGO) reached the same conclusions in its routine audits of government entities as in its recent audit of the Workers' Party-run town council.
The exchange happened during the second day of debate on the AGO's findings of accounting and governance lapses by the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).
Mr Png, a vice-chairman of the town council, had pointed out lapses at ministries and statutory boards the AGO had found in its annual audit of the organisations.
These include instances of overpayments, payments without evidence that goods and services were delivered and duplicate payments, which in one instance amounted to $18.6 million, he said.
"AHPETC is also found by the AGO to have erred in some of these areas, and I am certain AHPETC will not be the last as well, because good corporate governance is a work in progress.
"On any other given day, the report (of the AHPETC audit) may read like a typical AGO report on any entity under audit, but today, the spotlight is on AHPETC, and we will explain to the public," he said.
Mrs Teo pointed out that the AGO concluded in its AHPETC audit that "unless the weaknesses are addressed, there can be no assurance that AHPETC's financial statements are accurate and reliable and that public funds are properly spent, accounted for and managed".
She asked: "I would like to know whether Mr Png is aware of any other occasion that the AGO has drawn the same conclusion for a government ministry or statutory board?"
Mr Png replied that he had not meant to compare the conclusions in the AGO's AHPETC audit with the ones in its annual audits. What he meant was that "such lapses do exist", he said.
Mrs Teo shot back that he "had suggested that ministries and statutory boards have the same problems", even though the AGO had drawn a very specific conclusion about AHPETC.
Mr Png said the examples he cited had been picked up by the AGO. "Are those not real instances where lapses happened too? I am not saying that because (the) AHPETC (audit) was tabled in Parliament, but I am just citing that AGO work is thorough, fair, and I respect that."
This article was first published on Feb 14, 2015.
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