Segregation of Duties required: Our CPF, Temasek, GIC and Democracy

INDEMNITY: Look, I did not imply that the government is corrupt or engaging in any fraudulent transactions. I feel that there is a lack of trust between the government and its citizens. We want to believe in good faith what the government is doing is correct and good for its citizens and not for the few rich and powerful ones. We need a truly independent body to govern our reserves, GIC and Temasek, and he must be answerable to citizens. I DO NOT TRUST our current PRESIDENT, Dr. Tony Tan. He was part of the GIC, from the same political party and closely connected with the people from our current government. I feel the 33% who voted for him made the wrong decision. Here’s why:

Recently, I have met up with two of my accounting professors to discuss our government, CPF system, Temasek Holdings and GIC Pte Ltd. They were veterans on accounting reports and related fields. Previously, I have provided a background on the matter. The meet ups were casual but they were familiar with the situation.

The phrase that resonates constantly on my mind was “Smoke and Mirrors.” The professor said that when you let a single party government rule a country for 50 years, you are not going to get anywhere, no doubt. But you can’t prove it. Greed is human nature, and its legal. Its your fault to keep them in parliament for so long.

When I showed them the following picture I’ve gotten from the internet, they said the lack of segregation of duties is the problem here. The most important issue to address is who are the ultimate decision makers. Most relevant accounting textbooks focus on decision makers and segregation of duties to achieve maximum safeguard of assets and accountability. I feel the government must rectify and explain this fundamental issue:

photo(32)

 

What is segregation of duties?

“Segregation of duties is critical to effective internal control; it reduces the risk of both erroneous and inappropriate actions. In general, the approval function, the accounting/reconciling function, and the asset custody function should be separated among employees. When these functions cannot be separated, a detailed supervisory review of related activities is required as a compensating control activity. Segregation of duties is a deterrent to fraud because it requires collusion with another person to perpetrate a fraudulent act.”

Simply, the principal incompatible duties to be segre­gated are:

  • Custody of assets.
  • Authorization or approval of related trans­actions affecting those assets.
  • Recording or reporting of related transac­tions.

In our case:

GIC and Temasek Holdings have no obligations to Singaporeans. They are answerable only to their directors (the government) and shareholders. Essentially, the government borrows money from our CPF by issuing bonds (see below) and forms a private limited company (GIC) to indemnify themselves individually and invest the funds in whatever way they like. By definition, WE ARE NOT THE SHAREHOLDERS of the companies nor a CREDITOR! Surprise! How is that possible?

Drawing1

Our “supposed” net assets are valued at $232,509,917,000 Singapore dollars. 1sgd = 0.8 usd (p4 of financial statements) Out of which, 229,795,988,000 is invested. Under the notes to the financial statements, p31, $219,038,000,000 is invested in UNRATED Special issues of Singapore Government securities (SSGS). These securities are issued by our current government who has ruled Singapore for almost 50 years unchallenged. I am worried by the veil of secrecy behind these unrated bonds which also constitutes our nation’s reserves. How much we have in our reserves are not made known to the public. An election is coming soon (2016) and the ruling party is at risk of an exit. I am afraid that once we vote out the current government, it may be akin to opening to a can of worms. A worst case scenario.

Solution recommended: Get professional ratings agencies analyse and rate these UNRATED SSGS bonds.

What happens if the current government is voted out?

The GIC and Temasek board of directors REMAINS!!! Our money will still be in their hands. Who knows what may happen in future. I hope its still safe then. They are only obligated to pay interest and principal to the bonds when due. In the event of a default, you know GIC Pte Ltd is a LIMITED LIABILITY, how much can you recover from a bankruptcy?

Our reserves are primarily managed by GIC pte Ltd and Temasek Holdings and guaranteed by the government. GIC may or may not act like a hedge fund company. They lost big time in the 2009 financial crisis (33 billion of portfolio???). Perhaps they have mended their ways but we do not know exactly. We only earn a floating rate of 2.5% – 4% p.a. on the bonds issued (SSGS) while GIC earns 6% – 16.5% p.a. So who benefits from the excess interest earned??? And how much director fees are earned by each GIC board of directors??? Besides, what, where and how the funds are invested in are not specifically disclosed. We cannot prove that the money from taxes and pension funds are used to pay our fund returns. This cannot and must not be the biggest Ponzi scheme ever! The government must get us to trust again.

Info on our national reserves: http://www.gov.sg/government/web/content/govsg/classic/factually/Factually-310812-Whatcomprisesourreserves

Info on GIC’s investment: http://www.gic.com.sg/en/report/report-on-2012-2013/investment-report/geographical-distribution#.U58ASihdAQ8

GIC’s reported losses: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=adldZ5kLXljw

If the international press didn’t publish the news, we wouldn’t know because our press and media are tightly controlled by the government.

Further Questions:

When is the latest an annual report must be published? As at 20 June, only 2012 annual report exists on the web for our CPF. http://mycpf.cpf.gov.sg/CPF/About-Us/Ann-Rpt/Ann_Report

It depends on the rules written. For a public company, its 60 days. For a governmental institution (CPF), the government decides then because its not a public company. As for GIC and Temasek Holdings, essentially they are private companies, no obligation to publish annual reports.

Lastly, I admit I fear a worst case scenario, my money, my parents’ monies, as well as my friends’ monies are in the fund. Here’s a lyric from an old song from The Platters to end this post:

“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”

They asked me how I knew
My true love was true
I of course replied
Something here inside
Can not be denied

They, said some day you’ll find
All who love are blind
When you heart’s on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes

So I chaffed them, and I gaily laughed
To think they would doubt our love
And yet today, my love has gone away
I am without my love

Now laughing friends deride
Tears I cannot hide
So I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies
Smoke gets in your eyes

Smoke gets in your eyes

 

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The Racist and Ugly “富二代”(rich 2nd generation) PRCs

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As a mature masters student one of the top aussie university, I was appalled by the behaviour of some PRC course mates. Not all of course but the few who have really embarrassed their fellow countrymen and as well the school for accepting them. For the record, my best friends here are PRCs. Even they told me these so called “富二代” (rich 2nd generation) are a big disgrace. In my course, 90% are PRCs and all of them are 24 years old and below. It is understandable that some may not be mature enough, mindset wise. I was no different when I was 24 but not to this extent:

We had this group project to design an Information system. We had 3 PRCs, 1 Vietnamese and me, the Singaporean in the same group. I joined the group late so took the backseat letting the Vietnamese dictate leadership and tasks. My role during discussion was to translate the English spoken to mandarin and replies back to english. I believe their English was below the standard of a primary 6 student. Soon, discussion descended into disagreements, then arguments and finally hatred. I had to take over, mediate and reallocate tasks. I had prior management experience so they elected I take over. I told everyone I was going to be unbiased and aiming to finish the work as priority instead. All agreed and were very happy that I could make huge progress in the work done. However, there was this PRC “富二代” who contributed very little, lay blame on the Vietnamese for being unreasonable (eb=ven after he was no longer in charge and they never talked)  and gave all sorts of reasons for missing discussion or being late and leaving within 30 minutes. The reasons:

1. For avoiding tasks: I gotta propose to my wife again. Even though I got married in China, we’re not married here yet. I got the whole cinema booked for this event.

2. For being late (for 5 hours): Project work started at 3pm, he arrived at 8pm claiming bad traffic and had to observe a restaurant business because his family is interested in buying it. Left as soon as I entrusted him with a small task.

3. For being absent: He claimed his father-in-law came and he had to bring him around for leisure activities like fishing trips and buying cars.

4. For his substandard work: he claimed he followed exact instructions and just did what was told. I.e. I told him which page to look out for the template for help. So he simply copied the template wholesale w/o any relation to the work and submitted in 5 minutes. Then I knew he was useless, but not before entrusting him to a few more tasks which similar things happened.

Initially I wanted to report him to the lecturer for contributing nothing but he pleaded me and tried his best to carry my balls like calling me (in mandarin):

“big brother”

“you should help me as a big brother”

“little brother don’t know much, only know how to cling on to your leg, you must not neglect me”

And then this, “WE ARE ALL HAN CHINESE, WE SHOULD HELP OUR OWN RACE INSTEAD OF SIDING THE VIETNAMESE”

That is categorically racist. I didn’t expect him to say that knowing full well that my wife is a Vietnamese. I was really offended. Nobody should make that kind of statement especially in Australia, which could be criminal.

He made no apologies for his comments and claimed his personal stuff was important and that we must accommodate him. There was more…

I realized the situation was out of my hands when the other 2 PRCs surprisingly decided to defend him after I decided to report him to the lecturer. They said I should keep quiet, not make things ugly and sour our friendship. Normally, I would have closed both eyes but the Vietnamese was not agreeable and that “富二代” PRC began insulting me, my intelligence, and claimed we were no longer friends because he said I wasted everybody’s study time. Luckily I had experience in conflict management and avoided any retaliation or getting angry. He even suggested we should see the lecturer instead and resolve the problem (because he thought the lecturer would understand and side him). I agreed.

The Grand Finale:

During the meet up with the Lecturer, I showed everyone a printout of what he had done. Even he agreed the few pieces of “rubbish work” was exactly what he had done. Based on contribution itself, the lecturer said he deserve nothing but he claimed that the Vietnamese fucked him up by assigning him no tasks, never keep him in the loop and could not communicate with him. When I said I took over later to assign tasks and accommodated him, he said I gave him the most difficult tasks of all. For that task which we submitted as his work, we got zero, even after his PRC mates edited and made it relevant to our project. The lecturer realized that he copied wholesale from the lecture and workshop slides with no changes. Shockingly, he was unapologetic and said “I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE COURSE. THIS IS A SMALL MATTER AND YET THEY WANT TO BRING IT UP. I HAVE NO TIME FOR THE PROJECT AND YOU MUST UNDERSTAND I HAVE SO MANY OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO. I HAVE TO GET MARRIED, TAKE MY FATHER-IN-LAW FOR CRUISE, BUY MANY THINGS. WE BOUGHT AN AUDI AND A RESTAURANT NEARBY.”

He took out his car keys and showed he had 2 different car keys, seemingly to prove he really did buy the car. Then he started making accusations again:

“I TRIED TO DO THE PROJECT BUT THIS VIETNAMESE KEEP SAYING I DO THE WRONG THINGS. HE IS A BAD LEADER. AND THIS GUY (me)VERY SELFISH AND DID NOT HELP ME. I KEEP ASKING WHAT I HAVE TO DO AND THEY NEVER GIVE ME ANYTHING TO DO. I KNOW I DIDN’T DO MUCH BUT IF YOU WANT TO CUT MY MARKS I CAN ONLY GIVE UP 2% AND MY FRIENDS SHOULD GET IT.”

I could see the lecturer in a state of shock, speechless and clearly offended.  Later the PRC claimed he will never accept more than 2% cut or he will complaint (to the dean). Whoa!!! He really got the balls, really!

In the end, he got his wish… 2% cut on his project mark because of the communication problems from me and the Vietnamese. It was an eye opener for me and I couldn’t believe that the lecturer gave in. I was disappointed but later on a separate occasion, lecturer told me he was clearly offended by the PRC’s remarks and that his behaviour will mostly likely go against him in future. He said judging by his knowledge of the course, it may be difficult for him for the final exam. A valuable lesson for us anyway…

So was there justice after all? Oh yes definitely…