HPB wasted $5.39m on extra fitness trackers: Audit report
AGO also flags erroneous claims paid to ineligible public service officers and pensioners
The roll-out of a national fitness challenge by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) was found to have wasted $5.39 million of public funds because of fitness trackers that were not put to use, the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) has said.
In its annual audit of government accounts, the AGO also flagged that erroneous claims paid to ineligible officers or pensioners over a period of more than two years that were administered by the Public Service Division (PSD) resulted in the possible overpayment of around $500,000.
The AGO detailed these and other findings in a report released yesterday on government accounts for the 2020/2021 financial year. It issued an unmodified audit opinion on the government's financial statements, as well as those of three statutory boards, four government-owned companies and two other accounts. The AGO also carried out selective audits of eight statutory boards whose books were audited by external parties.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) said the audit report is an independent verification that the Government's accounts are reliable and prepared in accordance with the law. But it also acknowledged there is room to do better.
The AGO flagged lapses in five broad areas.
One, management of operations and weaknesses in controls.
For the HPB, its lapses pertained to the National Steps Challenge seasons one to five, which ended between one and five years prior to the audit. The AGO's checks found an excess of 268,000 fitness trackers valued at $4.26 million in total.
Following this, the HPB carried out a full stock count in January this year, which found 341,000 excess trackers, valued at $5.39 million. The audit office noted that while the stock of trackers was properly accounted for, the HPB's processes were inadequate.
The HPB said yesterday it has taken immediate steps to remediate the lapses and strengthen its processes.The Straits Times learnt that the HPB started offering a one-to-one exchange of fitness trackers for participants from March this year after the AGO flagged the excess.
On the lapses in claims administered by the PSD, the AGO discovered these erroneous claims while auditing medical and dental claims in the civil service.
The office found 9,500 possible erroneous claims paid to ineligible officers/pensioners from Jan 1, 2018 to March 31, 2020. "While this amounted to only 0.3 per cent of the three million claims processed during this period, the estimated possible overpayment by the Government was not small, at around $0.5 million."
The second area of weakness involves IT controls.
AGO singled out weaknesses at the Accountant-General's Department and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority over the management of the privileged operating system user accounts. These give access to more secure parts of an agency's systems, including the ability to make changes to audit logs, change the access of other users and adjust security settings.
Another area of concern involved possible irregularities in records furnished for audit.
The AGO found that at the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, some supporting documents for claims appeared to have been photocopies, with alterations made to the dates and duration of services rendered.
At the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the AGO said it came across instances of supporting documents created or even backdated to satisfy queries.
Another area of weakness was in procurement and contract management.
The audit found a Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore officer had detailed discussions with a tenderer to make significant changes to its proposal, and had informed the tenderer to start work before the tender was awarded.
Facility management contracts were also an area of concern.
The AGO had conducted a thematic audit on facility management contracts under MOE and MHA. It found policies and procedures to manage these contracts, but also areas for improvement.
These include strengthening controls and supervision.
FOR MORE, READ THE STRAITS TIMES