According to the report, released yesterday (7 September), the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) had conducted a thematic audit on six selected business grant programmes managed by WSG and ESG; The AGO's test checks covered S$100.81mn out of the S$333.40mn grants disbursed under these six programmes for the period 1 April 2018 to 30 June 2019. In addition, AGO test-checked S$7.83mn disbursed by WSG's and ESG's programme partners to companies awarded the grants.
Lapses found in audits at WSG were mainly in IT controls.
Responding to these findings, WSG said it "treats all lapses highlighted by the AGO during its thematic audit of grants managed by WSG very seriously."
"Although we have put in place proper controls and guidelines to manage our grant programmes prudently and to prevent fraud, we acknowledge AGO’s observations that there are areas of improvement. Many of AGO’s recommendations to improve the robustness of our grant administration and management regime have since been implemented."
The statement further highlighted that for observations regarding its core programmes such as the Professional Conversion Programmes and Career Support Programme, WSG has conducted a thorough review of these programmes, including checking all cases beyond those sampled by AGO, to ensure that the lapses were not systemic.
These additional checks, which are in the final stages and are scheduled to be completed by Q4 2020, have not uncovered any systemic anomalies so far. All monies wrongly disbursed have been recovered. "For the three cases of possible fraud, we have referred them to the police for investigation. WSG has also issued stern warnings to errant Programme Partners (PPs) who failed to comply with requirements for grants assessment and processing, and will not hesitate to take further action against recalcitrant PPs."
Apart from the above, the statement noted: "We agree with AGO that while there are operational reasons to provide some flexibility to the PPs in applying grant guidelines, we should ensure baseline requirements are met and adequate measures are in place to reduce inconsistency across the PPs. We will strive to strike a careful balance between tightening controls and ensuring the effectiveness of our programmes across a very diverse and complex employment and labour landscape."
Thus, moving forward, WSG has said it will strengthen its controls over and governance of all its programmes. This includes:
- Enhancing its guidelines for PPs to ensure greater oversight and improve consistency of practice;
- Conducting more regular sampling checks on applications being processed;
- Expanding our use of digital systems and analytics to mitigate risks of fraud and abuse, and
- Developing a more stringent framework to deter non-compliance by PPs.
"WSG will monitor the effectiveness of these enhanced measures and implement additional measures where necessary. WSG remains firmly committed to ensuring the sound governance and effectiveness of our programmes and the prudent use of public funds."
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