New unit to boost fraud detection in SkillsFuture claims
Inter-agency effort to put data analysis system in place for SkillsFuture Singapore claims
An inter-agency task force has been formed to help improve the fraud detection system for SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) claims.
Making the announcement in Parliament yesterday, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung added that a "good and effective data analytics system" will be in place by the third quarter of this year.
The development comes after it was reported last month that SSG, which oversees the lifelong learning scheme, had been cheated of nearly $40 million - the biggest case of a government agency being defrauded to date.
Police believe a crime syndicate was behind the scheme, allegedly making bogus SSG claims. Five people were nabbed last October.
"This should not have been allowed to happen," said Mr Ong.
"While we cannot always prevent all forms of fraudulent activities, SSG should have detected this case much earlier, especially when it was so egregious, and the amounts involved were so large."
No SSG staff member has been implicated in the latest fraud case.
There have been other cases of fraudulent SSG claims.
Last July, four men were charged with SkillsFuture Credit fraud amounting to more than $70,000 through bogus claims for courses that were not conducted.
Yesterday, MPs also asked about a case in February last year, in which more than 4,400 Singaporeans made fake claims amounting to some $2.2 million for a single course.
The individuals, who acted largely on their own accord, did not attend any training but falsely claimed to have done so, said Mr Ong.
After being found out, more than 90 per cent of them have either made full repayment or made arrangements for instalment repayments.
Those who did not respond will be blacklisted, and the Ministry will not rule out further legal and enforcement actions, he said.
Mr Ong told the House that SSG is getting help from private sector consultants, as well as GovTech, to use data analytics to better detect false claims without affecting employers who make genuine applications for SSG training grants.
Mr Ong was replying to members who asked about countermeasures against fraudulent SSG claims last year and if a review would be done.
The new task force will involve SSG, the Ministry of Education, the Accountant-General's Department and the police's Commercial Affairs Department.
"Specifically, I have directed SSG to strengthen its fraud detection system through data analytics," said Mr Ong.
"Fraudsters, who are going all out to cheat, are getting more sophisticated and their plans, more elaborate."
He added that by using data analytics and drawing on data across government agencies, "we can better detect false claims, without significantly affecting genuine employers applying for training grants."
KEPPEL O&M DID NOT GET OFF LIGHTLY: MINISTER
Singapore-listed Keppel Corp's offshore and marine unit "did not get off lightly" in receiving a conditional warning in lieu of prosecution, for its role in one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit Singapore, said Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah in Parliament yesterday.
It is being penalised more harshly under a global resolution reached with criminal authorities in the United States, Brazil and Singapore than if the matter had been prosecuted under Singapore laws alone, said Ms Indranee.
For paying US$55 million (S$73 million) in bribes, Keppel Offshore & Marine (KOM) and its American subsidiary were fined US$422 million two weeks ago under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
"Any penalty or claim that KOM might be subject to under Singapore law would be far less than what KOM is now liable for under the coordinated resolution," said Ms Indranee, adding later that the maximum fine under Singapore's Prevention of Corruption Act is $100,000 for each charge - which "wouldn't get us anywhere near the penalty under the global resolution".
She said: "As far as the company is concerned, make no mistake, there has been a heavy price to pay and deservedly so."
The minister was responding to three Workers' Party MPs who asked about the corruption scandal involving KOM.
Ms Indranee said that aside from the penalties levied on the company, certain individuals are being investigated.
"That outcome has not been determined," she said.
TRANSPORT MINISTER ASKS FOR REVIEW OF RULES GOVERNING PMD USE
About 30 reported accidents on public paths involving pedestrians and users of personal mobility devices (PMDs), such as electric scooters, occurred between January and September last year.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has asked the Active Mobility Advisory Panel to review the current code of conduct and regulations governing the use of PMDs.
The Government was considering measures such as registration of e-scooters, the use of helmets and third-party insurance, he said.
Mr Khaw did not think it was necessary to register all scootersand bicycles, but added that "(for) those which are power-assisted and therefore potentially can incur greater harm, there may be a case for some sort of registration".
He made these points while also urging victims in accidents involving PMDs to make a police report.
"If the offender is convicted in court (of) committing an offence, the court will consider if compensation to the victim should be paid.
"The victim can also seek compensation through civil lawsuits, mediation or private settlement," he added.
In all, about 110 PMD accidents took place between January and September last year.
OVERALL LOAN LIMIT SET FOR BORROWERS
Borrowers will no longer be able to approach multiple moneylenders and become "over-indebted".
In the latest move to regulate the industry, changes to the Moneylenders Act were passed yesterday, setting an overall loan limit for borrowers - a shift from the current caps that restrict how much they can loan from individual moneylenders.
This is due to "an upward trend in the amount of outstanding debt owed" since 2015, said Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah.
Moving forward, those earning less than $20,000 a year cannot borrow more than $3,000, while the cap is six times of monthly income for all other borrowers.
These changes "will help us to nip the over-borrowing in the bud before it gets worse", Ms Indranee said.
Moneylenders will also have to get a borrower's credit report from the Moneylenders Credit Bureau before giving out a loan, and are required to update the bureau on repayments.
WP'S PERERA WITHDRAWS STATEMENT ABOUT PARLIAMENTARY FOOTAGE
After alleging that broadcaster Mediacorp edited parliamentary footage last November, Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera apologised to Parliament and withdrew his earlier statements yesterday.
Mr Perera said he did not intentionally mislead Parliament and his "memory of the incident was inaccurate".
He said: "I would now like to definitively withdraw my earlier statements to the effect that the video had been edited with certain bits removed, and that the video had been edited and only corrected after my intervention.
"I confirm that Mediacorp had explained this to me in February 2017 and that I had accepted that.
"I would like to apologise to the House for all incorrect recollections in February 2017 contained in this exchange, as per House conventions."
On Nov 7, Mr Perera and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat had an exchange over the editing of parliamentary footage.
Mr Perera said Mediacorp had removed "certain bits" from a video on a debate in February last year.
Leader of the House Grace Fu, who sent a letter last week to Mr Perera asking him to apologise, acknowledged his apology and thanked him.
Ms Fu, who is also the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, added that she did not want to "read too much" into his intentions.
"The MPs are given parliamentary privilege to speak freely and surface different views, but this must not be misused to misrepresent facts or mislead the Parliament," she said.
- HARIZ BAHARUDIN
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