Follow by Email

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Corruption and the importance of financial matters

“How could fraud go undetected in a statutory board over a two-year period?”

That’s the common question asked by Yahoo! Fit-To-Post (FTP) users regarding the two senior Singapore Land Authority (SLA) officers who were charged with committing S$11.8 million fraud.

Koh Seah Wee, 40, a deputy director at SLA’s Technology and Infrastructure Department, is facing 249 fraud charges.

Christopher Lim Chai Meng, 37, a manager in the same department, is suspected to have conspired with Koh to cheat SLA.

The pair allegedly rendered false invoices for bogus maintenance contracts in transactions between January 2008 and March 2010, worth S$11.8 million.

Over 130 comments have been left behind by FTP users with the best-rated one by Esther, who wrote, “Yet another case to prove high pay does not guarantee corruption-free leadership.”

Another FTP user Youlahthan also questioned the level of audits and checks in government departments.

“Our government department has so many checks in place and yet such things happened. What’s going on? Have we become too complacent, as to let our guards down? Or have our “elite” become greedy to begin with?” he said.

Lily32sg agreed: “SLA should have a team of audit personnel’s and they are responsible for such failures. The authorities should also check if the entities/vendors that the contracts have been outsourced to have any investments connected to these 2 fellows.”

Another user KRK27 said, “You mean to say SLA auditors just did not notice S$11.8million amiss somewhere? They just go through the bills and invoices and not the physical worksites for inspection.”

News reports say Koh awarded maintenance contracts to various companies and was responsible of approving payments ranging from S$25,000 to S$60,000 without any work being done to fulfil the contracts.

According to The Straits Times, Koh used his “earnings” to buy his wife Yeing Nyok Sea a S$1.6 million Lamborghini and his mum-in-law, Kok A Mui, a $300,000 Mercedes Benz coupe.

He also invested in property at Axis@Siglap along East Coast Terrace, and well as purchased various unit trusts.

The SLA is a statutory board under the Ministry of Law. Its mission is to optimise land resources for the economic and social development of the country, ensuring the best use of State land and buildings.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the SLA and the Ministry of Law said cash and assets worth about $10 million have been located and secured so far.

The two officers were said to have conspired with each other and the business entities involved to enable them to circumvent the checks and balances in the processes.

The Law Ministry set up an independent review panel following the matter in June to look into how the irregularities could have taken place.

The Panel was also asked to recommend improvements to SLA’s systems and processes, some of which have already been implemented.

Disciplinary investigations have also been ordered into the actions of two other officers, whose oversight might have allowed the fraud to go undetected.

No comments: