SINGAPORE: Lapses have been uncovered in procurement practices, the management of Haj fees and administration of IT rights at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) said in its annual audit report released on Tuesday (Jul 16).
In a statement responding to the report, MUIS said it takes AGO's findings "seriously and acknowledges the lapses observed", but "has found no evidence of fraud".
In its audit for the financial year 2018/19, the AGO said test checks it ran on MUIS found lapses in 12 tenders and quotations worth S$5.54 million. In these cases, the evaluation sub-criteria or scoring methodology were only determined after the tender or quotation had closed.
In another four tenders and quotations worth S$1.38 million, MUIS did not evaluate the proposals according to its published evaluation criteria.
Errors were also found in the scores awarded during the evaluation process of another six tenders and quotations worth S$4.4 million.
"For some of these cases, had the proposals been properly evaluated, the awarded vendors could have been different," AGO said in its report.
"As a result there was inadequate assurance that the procurement had met the Government procurement principles of transparency, open and fair competition, and value for money," it said.
MUIS, which is a statutory board under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, said the lapses in procurement practices were due to "human error and procedural weaknesses".
"MUIS acknowledges these lapses, and immediate steps have been taken to address the gaps and ensure alignment with government best practices."
Training in governance and finance has been stepped up for its staff members, and more resources deployed to procurement and IT-related functions, it said.
LAPSES IN MANAGEMENT OF HAJ FEES
Administration fees are collected by MUIS for those applying to perform the Haj. If an applicant dies before performing the Haj, the fee is to be refunded to the estate of the deceased.
The AGO found there were 226 Haj applicants who died between 2012 and 2018, but the fees collected – amounting to a total of S$57,900 – had not been refunded.
The issue had been flagged before in its audit of MUIS in FY2012/13, AGO said.
Of the 226 cases, 80 per cent (181 families) have either received their refunds or are in the process of being refunded, MUIS said. The remaining 45 families were not contactable.
Currently, MUIS processes refunds when it is informed of the death of a Haj applicant by his family. It said it plans to review the refund process.
WEAKNESSES IN MANAGEMENT OF USER RIGHTS
AGO's checks also found that MUIS' electronic halal system and zakat receipt system had weaknesses in their management of access rights. In the eHalal system, conflicting access rights were granted to some users, allowing them to conduct inspections and approve their own recommendations.
MUIS said that these are "legacy IT systems" with technical limitations. The issues have been addressed with the implementation of new IT systems in January 2019, it said.
MUIS also did not conduct annual reviews of access rights for users – as required by the Government and MUIS itself – in four out of five IT systems it checked, AGO said.
Regular account and access rights reviews will be conducted going forward, MUIS said.