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Singapore spent S$72.3 billion to fight COVID-19 over past 2 years, lower than initially committed

The total expenditure was lower than the initial sum of S$100 billion committed by the Government due to reasons such as under-utilisation of resources set aside previously to cater for “potential downside scenarios” in public health.

Singapore spent S$72.3 billion to fight COVID-19 over past 2 years, lower than initially committed

People walking in pairs in Holland Village on Aug 10, 2021, as dining-in at food and beverage outlets resumes for those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (Photo: CNA/Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: A total of S$72.3 billion was spent on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two financial years (FY), said Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah in Parliament on Tuesday (Sep 13).

Of this sum, S$13.4 billion went to public health measures. Another S$50.6 billion was directed towards support measures for workers and businesses, while S$8.3 billion went to direct household and social support. 

The total expenditure was lower than the initial sum of S$100 billion that the Government committed, said Ms Indranee in response to a question from Member of Parliament Foo Mee Har (PAP-West Coast).

There were two reasons for the lower spending.

First, the Government had set aside loan capital in FY2020 in anticipation of a tight credit market. But this was not needed eventually, as the Monetary Authority of Singapore rolled out a Singapore-dollar facility to provide low-interest capital to participating financial institutions, she explained.

Second, resources set aside for public health capacity to cater for “potential downside scenarios” were also not fully utilised, as safe management measures and the cooperation of Singaporeans had helped to avert severe public health outcomes.

However, this under-utilisation in funds were offset by the various support packages that were introduced over the heightened alerts and stabilisation phases from May to November 2021 as infection cases spiked, added the minister.

Ms Indranee also noted that the Ministry of Finance (MOF) has started a review of the controls and checks in relation to COVID-19-related procurement and expenditure since earlier this year.

“Respective agencies are conducting their audits on COVID-19 pandemic-related procurement and expenditure to ensure transactions are bona fide, and that there is no erroneous payment,” she said.

This comes on top of the yearly audit done by the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO). The latest report by the AGO had highlighted instances of inadequate controls and checks by the Ministry of Manpower, Health Promotion Board and Singapore Land Authority in relation to pandemic-related procurement and expenditure. 

“Drawing lessons from our COVID-19 experience and from the Auditor-General's report, MOF is reviewing our guidelines on procurement, contract management and payment to ensure our control measures are appropriate for future emergencies,” Ms Indranee told the House.

MOF will also be issuing an advisory to agencies on adopting good practices and minimising financial risks during emergencies, she said.

These include adopting system checks on grant eligibility, including data verification at source to reduce the risk of errors from manual processing, and ensuring proper documentation of key decisions, among others.

Source: CNA/sk(gr)

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