Sunday, 28 October 2012

Review government procurement system to check abuses, says Auditor-General

October 28, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 28 — Putrajaya should rethink its procurement system which no longer goes through the Accountant-General’s Office and only relies on internal controls within ministries to ensure proper spending of public funds, Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang has suggested.

“Last time, you used to receive queries from the accountant-general if something was not proper. I think that’s one of the weaknesses of the (new) system, especially if people don’t have integrity. So maybe the government should look at this.

“But, under the new system that has been in place for the past few years, the document is sent to just the ministry or department.

“So, this is where the internal controls must make sure people don’t abuse the system,” Ambrin told the New Sunday Times (NST) in an interview published today.

Ambrin says the procurement system now no longer goes through the Accountant-General’s Office and only relies on internal controls within ministries to ensure proper spending of public funds. — File pic
The new system, where civil servants bypass the Accountant-General’s Office when procuring on behalf of the government, was put into place in a bid to increase the government’s efficiency in making a huge number of payments daily.
 According to NST, a new policy where the government has to settle all its procurement bills within two weeks had also caused Putrajaya to change the system.

Ambrin, who has served as auditor-general since 2006, declined to say whether the new system causes more wastage of taxpayers’ fund, adding that he was merely stating the situation as it is.

He explained that under the current electronic system, all procurement documents are with the government department, and the task of checking the purchases would fall on internal audit committees.

 “I’m just saying what is happening now; because (currently) the Electronic Budget Planning and Control System and the Government Financial and Management System are done electronically, (where) the document, the supporting documents, the LO and all that, are with the department,” he told NST.

“So there are no external parties to look at them. Once again, it is a matter of the quality of internal controls,” Ambrin was quoted as saying.

He also appeared to say that internal checks would not be able to stop those who want to “cheat”.

Ambrin gave advice to those in internal audit committees, saying: “Check, take a sample every month, make your presence known, then perhaps it will help people to be more alert. But still it is not fool proof if people want to cheat.”

Last Monday, Ambrin said that more government agencies have improved their financial performance last year, with 111 of them rated as “very good” compared to 77 agencies in 2010 and 48 agencies in 2009.

He also said the government’s revenue collection had jumped to RM185.42 billion, an increase of RM25.77 billion from RM159.65 billion in 2010.

Analysts have said that the skipping of the open tender process in several projects, as revealed under Auditor-General’s Report 2011, may affect the level of public trust in the government.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has pledged his commitment to open tenders, saying at the launch of the Economic Transformation Programme in 2010 that competitive tenders for big projects would be the “default” option.

Despite efforts to boost transparency including making corruption one of the National Key Result Areas in the GTP, Malaysia slipped four spots to 60th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index last year.

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