Safeguards for staff access to destitute residents' property

The Tembusu Home for destitute people has fully complied with measures to strengthen the safekeeping of residents' property, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

The measures were introduced after an investigation into allegations of misappropriation by a former assistant superintendent of the home.

Chiang Zhao Xiang, 31, was charged on Monday with misappropriating $220,476 in cash from seven residents at the welfare home located in Buangkok Green, off Yio Chu Kang Road.

In a statement released on Monday, MSF said the home now conducts regular checks on savings passbooks for all residents, on top of the existing checks that are made after routine withdrawals.

The home has also strengthened its processes around staff access to residents' property, and has implemented a whistle-blowing system for staff and residents.

Chiang allegedly misappropriated the money between May 2014 and January 2015, taking between $8,240 and $99,120 from each alleged victim through ATM withdrawals and transfers.

One of the seven men died in October 2015 and another died last June. The five who are still alive are between 52 and 66 years old.

Chiang is also accused of cheating two of the men of $32,000 in late 2014.

His alleged crimes came to light after the Tembusu Home's managing agent, voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) Sathya Sai Social Service, discovered unauthorised withdrawals from residents' bank accounts.

The VWO notified MSF on Feb 5, 2015 and a police report was made.

MSF said it directed the board and management of the home to conduct an investigation into the lapses and to implement measures to strengthen its internal controls and governance.

The VWO has since recovered all the money and returned it to the residents affected.

On Monday, the court heard that Chiang, who was unrepresented, intends to plead guilty to his offences and asked for a two-week adjournment to settle personal matters. He was offered bail of $20,000 and will be back in court on March 1.

If convicted of criminal breach of trust, he can be jailed for up to 15 years and fined.

And if convicted of cheating, he can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each charge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'Safeguards for staff access to destitute residents' property'. Print Edition | Subscribe