Train personnel to spot cases of fraud in funding schemes

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's message of prudent spending in Budget 2018 comes as a timely reminder (Preparing Singapore for future challenges; Feb 20).

Many of the programmes that help Singaporeans are expensive to carry out. So it is necessary to know how these initiatives are performing.

SkillsFuture - one such programme to which a substantial amount of taxpayers' resources was allocated - helps Singaporeans adopt lifelong learning, gain new skills or switch careers.

But since its launch in 2015, many Singaporeans have tapped these grants for frivolous educational pursuits that do not have realistic or applicable value in the workplace.

The current mechanism should be calibrated to ensure that genuine supply and demand needs are met.

For instance, Mr Heng shared that Professional Conversion Programmes, an initiative for professionals to switch careers, helped more than 3,700 mid-career individuals take up new jobs last year. This is a good example of result.

Since (SkillsFuture's) launch in 2015, many Singaporeans have tapped these grants for frivolous educational pursuits that do not have realistic or applicable value in the workplace. The current mechanism should be calibrated to ensure that genuine supply and demand needs are met.

More attention could be provided to the professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) group.

The PMETs make up a sizeable chunk of our employment landscape, and this group was badly hit in the restructuring that has been taking place in the Singapore economy.

Some training providers encourage qualified Singaporeans to sign up for cheap or supposedly free courses, regardless of whether the potential trainees are suitable for them.

While it is also a personal responsibility, some Singaporeans might not be aware or knowledgeable enough and, thus, go with the advice of these training providers.

As scams are prevalent, more resources have to be allocated and robust internal fraud detection systems in place to prevent such abuse (Syndicate behind bogus claims worth $40m; Dec 20, 2017).

Perhaps a review of the training of personnel managing such funding initiatives is due.

For instance, stat board officers who help provide career and training advice to job seekers can flag cases when they spot individuals who have signed up for multiple courses within a short span of time.

The information collected and built over time by the officers, can provide learning points to help the Government calibrate funding initiatives during review time.

Tan Kar Quan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2018, with the headline 'Train personnel to spot cases of fraud in funding schemes'. Print Edition | Subscribe