Straits Times: Low queries PA’s financial reports

BUDGET DEBATE – DAY 6

HOUGANG MP Low Thia Khiang yesterday queried financial disclosure standards of the People’s Association (PA).

He asked why its audited financial statements did not include financial information on the grassroots organisations (GROs) – such as community clubs and residents’ committees – under its charge.

This non-inclusion means that PA’s auditors could qualify its financial statements on the basis that the GROs were not included, he observed.

“Such qualified audited reports of the PA do not help to enhance the reputation of the public sector.

“Moreover, PA handles hundreds of millions of public funds,” he noted.

Replying during the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Finance (MOF), Minister of State Lim Hwee Hua gave five reasons why PA feels that the GROs’ accounts should not be consolidated:

>> First, the money belongs to the GROs.

>> Second, government grants and cost of staff support are already accounted for in the PA’s financial statements.

>> Third, the GROs are operationally self-funding through revenues from activities, courses and donations.

>> Fourth, the GROs decide on how their money should be spent on residents.

>> Fifth, proper procurement procedures, financial control and good corporate governance practices apply to the GROs.

Mr Low also asked if it was acceptable to the ministry that the financial statements of the GROs, under the management and supervision of the PA, be left outside of the PA’s financial statements, “and effectively out of public scrutiny and accountability”.

Mrs Lim replied: “The Accountant-General’s Department and the Ministry of Finance are discussing this issue with PA.”

LI XUEYING

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