Khaw needs to conduct independent audit

Singapore Democrats

The NParks’ purchase of theexpensive Brompton foldable bicycles has taken another unfortunateturn with the Ministry of National Development (MND) announcingyesterday that it is suspending the officer in charge ofprocuring the bicycles following an internal audit.$CUT$

The stated reason for the MND’ssuspension of the officer is there was the “possibility of bias inthe procurement.”

The statement also statedthat its audit of the procurement of the bicycles was to “ascertainits justification and to see if its procurement process could beimproved.” It added, however, that the reason to buy the expensive bicycles were valid.

Indeed, the Minister for National Development Mr Khaw Boon Wan had defended thepurchase of the bicycles three weeks ago, citing productivity as the reason for theprocurement.

The MND’s statement and Mr Khaw’s remarks raise morequestions than they answer.

First, why did the Minister defend thepurchase of the bicycles, only to call for an audit to examine if the buy wasjustified? Note that the MND’s statement dated 24 July 2012 said thatthe internal audit was tasked by Mr Khaw “last month” meaningJune.

But after he called for the audit inJune and before the findings were reported yesterday, Mr Khaw wrote in hisblog dated 4 July 2012 and headlined Value for Money that his Ministry had bought the “rightequipment”.

Is this not the height ofirresponsibility, calling for an audit and then coming to aconclusion before the results were in? Were the auditors, who werepresumably MND officers, affected by the Minister’s defence of thepurchase?

Second, it was revealed, thanks to netizens, that there was only one bid for the tender that MND had put out. Under such a circumstance, on what basis did Mr Khaw make his comparison to come to the conclusion that the product was value for money? Was there another model that he had looked at to say that NParks had, indeed, made the right decision? Or was he just parroting what the salesman told the NParks officers?

Mr Khaw’s behaviour and attitude in this episode demonstrates a lack of competence and care. It seems that spending tax payers’ money is easy for the Minister (he had also justified the purchase of office chairs for $575 each).      

In the public’s interest, Mr Khaw must answer the above questions and call for an independent audit instead of an internal one to determine if the purchase of the Brompton bicycles was really justified. Anything less will make the public angrier.