Singapore’s government is putting automation technology to use in finance. Source: Shutterstock

How Singapore’s Ministry of Finance is getting a grip on data

For the auditor, spotting anomalies in long, complex financial statements is no easy task.

Not only is it time-consuming, but it is also tedious. As the auditor’s attention wanes, some anomalies may fall through the cracks, resulting in an inaccurate reflection and misalignment of finances.

For auditors at Singapore’s Accountant-General’s Department (AGD), this has already changed. Now, the agency is utilizing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to enhance the accuracy of payroll audits and to streamline operations.

According to Paul Loke, Director of Technology and Chief Information Officer of AGD, RPA allows the agency to conduct more thorough checks because of the large volume of data that bots can process.

These bots can handle 100,000 records in ten minutes. With this, there is no longer a need for random sampling, where all too often there are more misses than hits.

Aside from enhancing accuracy, RPA also provides the AGD with valuable insights.

The vast volume of data RPA processes is fed into an analytics system, which then identifies anomalous trends that can help agencies better allocate spending.

Say, for example, that a phone line that has not been used for three months is identified. The agency can look into the feasibility of cutting expenditure through terminating the line.

Aside from from RPA, the AGD also has a one of its kind data dashboard that provides a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the agency’s financial information.

The financial health of departments can be stacked against one another, allowing the AGD to see the bigger picture when it comes to trends.

For example, the AGD can easily identify employees or departments that have been submitting abnormally large amounts of claims, and investigations can be carried out in a timely fashion.

Aside from detecting potentially fraudulent claims, the dashboard also aids with staffing issues. Just a quick look through employee’s late-night taxi claims, for instance, can hint towards overworked employees.

Supervisors can use this as a gauge for workload, and can intervene to make it more sustainable.

Bots and data are just part of the Singaporean’s government effort to go paperless.

Earlier this year, the city-state has issued coveted digital banking licenses up for bids, further enhancing its lure as a tech hub for investors looking to enter the regional market.

It has also encouraged innovation by creating a favorable regulatory environment for those, local or abroad, looking to venture into fintech.

Singapore’s government has ambitious dreams, and Loke is looking forward to the days when ‘101 spreadsheets and manual data entry are over’. At the rate things are going in Singapore, it is only a matter of time before this becomes a reality.