Auditor General: Breaches of Law in Prime Minister’s Office

Barely a week after Lee Hsien Loong spoke of integrity and the importance of admitting ones mistakes, the Auditor General released his annual report and gave the PM the perfect opportunity to practice what he preached. The report for 2012/13 cites more than two dozen incidents relating to contracts worth almost S$300M where the PMO’s National Research Foundation appear to be in violation of The Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act. While the PM himself is not directly implicated, the failure of a department under his oversight to abide by its legal and contractual obligations clearly raises significant questions. Will the PM or his office stand up for their integrity and admit to these mistakes – as the PM has urged his political opponents to do over much smaller matters – or will a hypocritical silence be maintained?

To quote the Auditor General’s report directly, under the heading “Prime Minister’s Office”:

62. The Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act (Cap. 30B, 2006 Revised Edition) stipulated the time frame for making payment and requirements for payment response to a payment claim. The Act was passed to address cash flow problems faced by the construction industry by upholding the rights of parties to seek progress payments for work done and goods supplied.

63. For the contract for building works construction and another contract for foundation works (total contract value of $295.72 million), AGO found 32 instances of late payment to contractors (totalling $254.04 million). In six instances (totalling $26.09 million), the delays ranged from 33 to 174 days.

64. For the three consultancy services contracts (total contract value of $27.25 million), AGO observed that NRF did not provide payment responses to the consultants’ payment claims (totalling $24.56 million).
Report of the Auditor-General for the Financial Year 2012/13

Some observers may find it shocking that the Auditor General claims to have observed unlawful behaviour on the part of the government, but in fact this year’s revelation follows even more serious breaches detected by the AG last year. As was first reported by Kenneth Jeyaretnam, the Ministry of Finance last year broke the law – in fact the constitution – in issuing a “promissory note” to the World Bank without presidential approval. In the same year, the Ministry for National Development was also found to have breached the constitution by engaging in unlawful accounting methods on a land reclamation project.

In any normal democratic country, unlawful or unconstitutional behaviour on the part of the government would be a significant scandal, in Singapore however these mistakes go completely unreported by a mainstream media that apparently deems the cleanliness of a hawker centre to be much more significant. A mainstream media also that uncritically toes the government line on what constitutes “integrity“, but will surely not call the PM out if he maintains a hypocritical silence in failing to admit to the many unlawful mistakes that have been committed by entities responsible to him.

The key question arising from the AG’s findings is whether the current government are fit for purpose in terms of upholding the public interest. Can a government that despite being extremely well paid, repeatedly breaches the law, the constitution and their own contractual obligations be entrusted with the wealth and wellbeing of the nation? The PM should take his own advice. Speak the truth. Things have clearly gone wrong, and even though it is inconvenient the PM should admit to the unlawful mistakes made by the current government. A failure to do so will only leave the PM open to accusations of hypocrisy since these are exactly the steps the PM urged his political opponents to take over actually much more trivial mistakes made in the cleaning of a hawker centre.

The PM should respond. His integrity is at stake.

* * * * * *

The author of this article contacted the Prime Minister’s Office who were offered the chance to comment on the concerns raised by the Auditor General’s report. No response was received.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Auditor General: Breaches of Law in Prime Minister’s Office

  1. So many ministers without portfolio are doing routine works under PMO. Their works should be thoroughly scrutinized to avoid favouritism, cronyism and malpractices of the kind now discovered. Not just for show but really professionally checked against contractual terms and conditions in view that this area is the most vulnerable to abuses and malpractices.

  2. Dumb Investor

    You must be dumb to expect a answer from the PM. Do you know who is father is. He owns the country.

    • Yeah, thanks. I do know who he is! For the record, I didn’t expect a response, but it is worth noting that the PMO was offered the chance to respond but chose not to. Further, as long as the PM refuses to comment, he opens himself up to accusations of hypocrisy – but that is his problem not mine.

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  4. rachelabsinthe

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Yes, the Prime Minister should respond indeed.

  5. Alan

    People say charity starts at home. Same with integrity. So if PM remained silent on his own ministry breaking our own laws, is that not a joke that he talked big about integrity in Parliament ?

  6. Wizard of Oz

    “In any normal democratic country, unlawful or unconstitutional behaviour on the part of the government would be a significant scandal”

    Yes, but Singapore is neither normal nor democratic, so standards of governance should be compared to countries at a similar stage of political development such as Kazakhstan or Sri Lanka. In the political sphere there can be no change because the systems of checks and balances that enable them have been systematically dismantled in Singapore. The low-hanging fruit of economic development has already been plucked, so high post-war GDP growth rates are a thing of the past. If this situation continues, Singapore can look forward to a future as a second-rate economy with a fifth-rate political system. Unless real change happens soon.

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  9. He is so protected by his team of internet brigade such as those in the fabrications about pap that he hardly needs to worry about any mistakes as reported in the auditor general reports over the years.

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