3,000 civil servants to get $10m in compensation after errors in records affected their starting pay, benefits

The Civil Service will compensate the officers who were underpaid due to these errors. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Errors have been found in the records of around 3,000 former and current civil servants, which impacted benefits they received such as their starting salaries and medical leave wages.

Disclosing this on Wednesday (Nov 18), the Public Service Division (PSD) said it discovered the errors while upgrading the civil service's human resources and payroll IT systems.

The Civil Service will compensate both current and past officers who were underpaid due to these errors, with the total sum amounting to around $10 million.

Those affected represented about 2 per cent of the civil servant population over the past two decades, said the PSD.

It took more than two years after the errors were discovered to trace and validate the IT system errors, check through 102,000 current and past records which date back to the 1990s, and re-calculate benefits, the PSD added.

Most of the errors related to inaccuracies in the full-time national service records of civil servants.

Further checks also found errors in the calculation of medical leave wages, as well as in a program used to compute payments that some pensioners make when they retire from the service.

The mistakes arose primarily because of human error in data entry, as well as the coding of the IT systems involved, the PSD said.

These systems also had inadequate error detection capabilities, it noted.

PSD said the Government will not be recovering the $3.9 million in excess money paid out, "given that these resulted from errors made a long time ago".

It is also working with all statutory boards to check and verify their employee records.

"The statutory boards will similarly make good any errors if discovered," said the PSD.

Mr Loh Khum Yean, who is permanent secretary of the PSD, said the Public Service is deeply sorry for the errors and inconvenience caused.

"We will make every effort to reach out to every adversely impacted individual to apologise for the error, explain the situation, as well as make good the discrepancy," he said. "We have rectified the system programming and built-in error detection capabilities to flag potential errors and ensure such inaccuracies do not recur."

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To make up for these errors, those adversely affected may have their pensions amounts recalculated or be given a one-time leave difference.

They will be paid for long service awards they missed out on, and have the next tier of long service awards brought forward.

The PSD said it will also compensate those who had to use no-pay leave due to insufficient sick leave, and rectify the shortfall in starting salaries where applicable.

When asked why PSD took two years to disclose the errors, a spokesman said it considered whether to start notifying affected officers while it was still verifying the potential impact, or to do so later after it was more sure.

"On balance, we felt it was important to check through the records comprehensively before notifying the individuals in a systematic exercise. This is so that we can better appreciate the extent of the workforce that is materially affected," she said.

"Moreover, the friends or colleagues of individuals who were adversely affected and informed, may also wonder if they are affected, and we will be in a better position to address their concerns. Nevertheless, we will be making good the shortfall with interest, to make up for the time lapse."

How the errors occurred

Explaining how the errors occurred, the PSD said the national service period is taken as part of a civil servant's length of service, and therefore has an impact on starting salary and benefits.

Since 2002, the Civil Service has recognised the "fitness cut" period, where enlistees who meet physical fitness requirements serve one or two months less than their peers, in determining starting salaries and benefits.

However, this "fitness cut" data was not included in the records of some 1,400 civil servants.

This affected areas such as starting salaries, retirement benefits, leave eligibility, extended sick leave quotas, and individuals' eligibility for long service awards.

Another error involved a problem with the formula used to calculate medical leave wages for injured employees on service injury leave, which affected around 1,000 people.

These wages are supposed to be calculated based on an employee's average monthly earnings - including their monthly salary, bonuses and overtime pay.

However, it was wrongly calculated based on gross monthly salary.

The last error was discovered in the program used to compute payments that some pensioners make when they retire from the service.

Typically, retiring civil servants with non-pensionable service can choose to return the employer's portion of Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions, in order to get annual allowances.

But the wrong CPF rates were entered into the IT system that calculated these refund amounts, resulting in some 500 people paying back more than they should have. This money will be returned to the affected individuals or their dependants, PSD said.

The PSD will contact all current and former civil servants who were under-compensated due to the errors by March 2021.

People who have left the service will received a registered letter at their last known address, as well as phone calls and home visits.

Those who are not contacted by next March have not been adversely affected by the errors, it said.

People with questions can approach the human resources departments of the government agencies they are working in or were employed with. They can also write in to enquiry_2020@psd.gov.sg.

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