PA probe finds no dishonesty but action taken over CCC lapses

Shortly after the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) released its report on lapses in public bodies, the People's Association (PA) said it had completed its own investigation into a case of conflict of interest at a grassroots organisation.

Its investigation found no evidence of dishonesty at the Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC) in Admiralty ward in Sembawang GRC. Still, the PA said it will take action to set right the lapse and prevent such mistakes in future.

The AGO had found seven instances in which the CCC chairman had approved his own claims totalling $114,767, and there were no supporting documents for three of the payments.

It also found lapses in the management of related-party transactions.

The CCC chairman was involved in approving the award of two contracts worth $32,000 and payments to a company where he held a senior management position.

Another CCC member involved in the approval process for one of the contracts was also director and shareholder of the same company.

"The chairman and the CCC member did not declare their interests in the transactions," the AGO said.

"As a result, there was no assurance that the transactions were conducted at arm's length."

The AGO did not name the CCC in its report, but National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan identified it as Admiralty CCC in Sembawang GRC, where he is an MP. Mr Khaw said it had cooperated with the PA investigation panel.

"I am glad that the investigation panel found no evidence of dishonesty. Nonetheless, it was a related- party transaction that was not declared," he said. "The CCC will study the investigation report and review its procedures to ensure that such lapses do not recur."

PA said the chairman voluntarily stepped down on July 5. It accepted his resignation yesterday, the day after its investigation ended.

The CCC chairman involved was not named by the AGO, PA or MPs, but he is Mr Tonic Oh. He could not be reached yesterday.

MP Vikram Nair, who oversees Admiralty ward, said he was "saddened to learn of the findings by the AGO in relation to the unreported related-party transaction".

The grassroots leader had served with distinction for many years, he added.

PA said the constituency staff preparing payments should have been more conscientious in complying with financial rules by getting the vice-chairman, secretary or treasurer to approve the claims, instead of the chairman himself.

It added that the CCC chairman and member should have recused themselves from the evaluation process involving their company.

The CCC member has been reminded to comply with procedures and the staff involved will be reprimanded, PA added.

The AGO also found that 35 of the 91 community club/centre management committees (CCMCs) checked did not get approvals from the relevant authorities for 53 tenancy contracts totalling $17.78 million.

Checks on grassroots bodies also found they did not seek approval before awarding contracts or making direct purchases, or invite quotations in writing.

The PA said it has taken action on getting the right approvals and correcting all the lapses.

It has set up a hotline to guide grassroots organisations on the correct procurement procedures, and will step up training for them. It has also set up a grassroots finance review committee and will strengthen supervision to ensure these bodies comply with financial regulations .

This article was first published on July 16, 2015.
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