Parliament: About 14 per cent of full-time national servicemen who go AWOL cite financial hardship

About 14 per cent of full-time national servicemen who went absent without official leave cited financial hardship as the main reason for committing the offence.
About 14 per cent of full-time national servicemen who went absent without official leave cited financial hardship as the main reason for committing the offence.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A minority, or about 14 per cent, of full-time national servicemen (NSFs) who are convicted for going absent without official leave (AWOL) cite financial hardship as the main reason for committing the offence.

There have been 28 cases annually over the last five years, Senior Minister of State for Defence Mohamad Maliki Osman said in Parliament on Monday (Sept 10).

Replying to a question filed by Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera on the issue, Dr Maliki said that NSFs in need of financial help can apply for the Term Financial Assistance (TFA), or be given help through a one-time contingency grant.

The TFA is a monthly assistance that can be provided for as long as the NSFs are serving their full-time national service.

The eligibility criteria and financial amount provided are similar to public financial assistance schemes, said Dr Maliki, adding that additional support is provided for families with school-going children or if family members have medical conditions.

About 80 per cent of the applications are approved and on average, about 120 NSFs receive the TFA, Dr Maliki added.

The financial aid ranges from under a hundred to a few thousand dollars each month and is provided for an average of eight months.

"The TFA grants were given to most recipients within two weeks of submitting the completed application," said Dr Maliki.

Additionally, a serviceman's commanding officer or department head can extend quick financial aid, through a one-off Contingency Grant, of up to $500, or the Welfare Grant for higher amounts.

These schemes benefit more than 50 NSFs each year, said Dr Maliki.