In an unusual move, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is turning to an overseas firm to ferret out foreigners who lie about their qualifications in work pass applications.
Last month, the ministry hired Dataflow Services (India) - a firm in New Delhi - to conduct random checks on education certificates and employment history declared by Indian nationals working in Singapore.
Even marriage and birth certificates are scrutinised, The Straits Times has learnt.
When contacted, the MOM said that although it is the employer's responsibility to ensure that the documents in work pass applications are genuine, the ministry will use "independent verification channels" like Dataflow to conduct its own random audits.
The latest move is part of a crackdown by MOM on the use of false educational certificates in such applications after the law was changed in 2012 to make it a standalone offence.
Applicants from India are not the only ones targeted. Since February last year, employers who submit tertiary certificates from China when applying for work passes for foreigners have to show proof that the paper qualifications are authentic.
In 2012, the MOM prosecuted 43 foreigners in court for lying about their academic qualifications. From January to June last year, 28 foreigners were convicted of similar offences.
Foreigners who submit fake educational certificates when applying for a work pass can be fined up to $20,000, jailed for up to two years, or both. Employers involved may also be barred from hiring foreign workers.
Dataflow said on its website that it helps clients ensure that the staff they hire are qualified and competent. "We identify fraudsters and unwanted professionals by verifying their qualifications and checking individuals against proprietary database and international watch lists."
When contacted on the phone, a staff member confirmed it offers "education and background verification" services and its clients include firms and individuals, before hanging up the phone.
According to a source, Dataflow was hired on a one-year contract and it is expected to conduct 500 to 600 checks a year.
The firm cannot take more than four weeks for each check and is required to provide details to the MOM on the process it undertakes to conclude whether the certificate is real or fake. The cost for each check is about $100.
Recruitment firms support MOM's move. Said Mr David Leong, managing director of recruitment firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting: "If we don't do this, fraud by employers will only increase because they may think that MOM is not doing sufficient audit checks to make sure that fake cases are detected and eliminated."
Mr Zainudin Nordin, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, said the move will also ensure that the foreigners working here are suitably qualified. "At the end of the day, we want to ensure that the people we bring in are of a certain quality and can add value to our country."