Singapore

Changes to Act after under-collection

Government agencies fix issues behind lapses as parliamentary watchdog calls for holistic solutions

Foreign vehicles with unpaid toll charges and fees will soon be banned from entering or leaving Singapore.

Amendments to the Road Traffic Act were introduced in Parliament last week and will be debated by Members of Parliament next month.

The move to bar such vehicles comes after the Land Transport Authority (LTA) was rapped by the Auditor-General last year for under-collecting up to $14 million in charges.

Several other government agencies have also made changes to address their lapses in governance and procurement, said a report released by Parliament yesterday.

These lapses were first flagged by the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) in its annual audit of public agencies for Financial Year (FY) 2015/16.

In its report yesterday, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), a parliamentary watchdog on public funds, outlined how it had scrutinised irregularities and asked ministries how they had corrected them.

The PAC's eight members called on the agencies to address the underlying problems that led to the lapses. It urged them not to go with piecemeal fixes that might result only in more red tape and higher costs, but to find holistic solutions that are effective and efficient.

For example, ministries can redesign an entire system or make better use of technology to address the fundamental causes of the lapses.

"Heads of agencies should set the tone at the top to ensure adherence to processes and controls as part of good governance," the report said.

The PAC noted four areas of concern: Inadequate financial controls, a proper governance framework not being in place, lack of oversight of administration of schemes, and lapses in management of contracts.

On the under-collected tolls, the Transport Ministry explained that LTA's collection system at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints was not linked to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, thus letting motorists clear immigration without paying correct fees.

The agencies will begin a trial linking their collection systems by FY 2016/17, and fully implement it in the following year.

Other lapses included the high fee paid to consultants for the Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall bin centre.

The Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth (MCCY) told the PAC it had reiterated that evaluations of whether quoted fees were reasonable should be included in approval documents.

The PAC also followed up on lapses uncovered in the AGO report for FY2014/15, such as related-party transactions in grassroots bodies.

MCCY told the PAC it had put in place measures to manage conflicts of interest.

Since January 2016, grassroots leaders have also been reminded at the start of every meeting to declare conflicts of interest and leave the meeting when these arose.

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