Singapore

1,000 people asked to return Sirs money due to erroneous declarations

About 1,000 people have been asked to return their payouts from the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs), after it was found there were erroneous declarations in their applications, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in Parliament yesterday.

These individuals make up 0.5 per cent of all Sirs recipients, with around $1.8 billion paid out to self-employed people between April and December last year.

"To be fair and consistent to all applicants, those with erroneous declarations have been approached to refund their Sirs payouts... we will reach out to the rest individually to give them time to do so," she said in response to a question from Workers' Party MP Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC).

Sirs is a Covid-19 assistance programme which provided self-employed people with three quarterly cash payouts of $3,000 each in May, July and October.

Mrs Teo said Sirs, as with all other government schemes, is subject to financial audit. An external auditor appointed by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), which is in charge of administering the scheme, will conduct the audit.

The Manpower Ministry also conducted its own audit, which is still ongoing, before and after the final payout tranche was disbursed.

WP chief Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) asked if there were cases where MOM or NTUC had approved applications even though the applicants fell outside the qualifying criteria, and subsequently clawed back payouts upon deciding later that the applications should not have been approved.

Mrs Teo said she had not come across such cases, though she believes there may have been a few of them. She also said she did not have figures on this to share.

She added that MOM and NTUC are aware there were scams inviting people who were not the intended recipients of Sirs to apply for it. These cases have been referred to the police for investigation.

Sirs was open to those who earned a net trade income of up to $100,000 and lived in a property with an annual value of no more than $21,000. Applicants could not own more than one property. Those who were renting could submit proof of their annual rental contract. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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