As you may know, taxpayers’ money goes into a common pool to fund development in five main areas:
- Healthcare and services
Given how dangerous a sedentary life is for our health, millions are also poured into programmes to encourage a healthier lifestyle.
Unfortunately for us, not all of this money was put to good use.
$5.39 Million at HPB Allegedly Wasted on Excess Fitness Trackers
Every financial year, the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) conducts an audit of government ministries and statutory boards, among other public authorities.
One of the boards it conducted checks on for the 2020/2021 financial year was the Health Promotion Board (HPB), a statutory board under the Ministry of Health.
While its audit found lapses and “possible irregularities” in several government ministries and agencies, HPB’s lapse might just take the cake.
Remember the National Steps Challenge?
Offering financial rewards for exercising more, the programme gave eligible participants who signed up for the challenge free fitness trackers.
However, when AGO conducted its audit, it found that there were 268,000 excess fitness trackers which amounted to S$4.26 million.
Then, when HPH carried out a full stock count, it discovered that there were actually 341,000 excess trackers, amounting to S$5.39 million.
Some of the unused trackers even had mouldy straps and watch faces. As expected, the two-year warranty for most of the trackers had expired.
How Did This Happen?
According to AGO, there seems to have been two main problems with how HPB kept track of its fitness trackers.
Firstly, there was no proper process to monitor and account for the movement and stock of trackers.
In addition, AGO said there was no documentary evidence of the annual stock checks carried out by HPB.
And that fact that the distribution of these trackers involved external parties just complicated matters further.
HPB Issues Response
HPB was quick to respond to AGO’s findings, claiming that an overestimation of demand was to blame for the lapses.
According to the statutory board, the number of sign-ups in the National Steps Challenge programme grew from 156,000 in Season 1 to 900,000 in Season 5.
HPD said it pre-emptively topped up its stock each season, anticipating high demand.
While HPB has started disposing of the excess trackers that are obsolete, 120,000 trackers are still functional.
It added that it will be more conservative in its projections for subsequent seasons of the programme, and that additional trackers will only be acquired when excess bookings are received from participants.
It has also enhanced its monitoring processes for the movement and stock of its trackers.
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