11 weeks' jail for man who helped cheat WDA of over $36,000

SINGAPORE - A man was sentenced to 11 weeks' jail for his involvement in a scam that deceived the authorities into disbursing almost $37,000 in training grants.

Patrick Ho Kok Wing, 57, pleaded guilty in the State Courts to three charges of falsifying records on Thursday (April 9) and sentenced on the same day, with two other charges taken into consideration.

According to court documents, the now-defunct Workforce Development Agency (WDA) had disbursed training grants to Yoke Mah Plasterceil for five courses Ho supposedly conducted between March 2014 and March 2015, although the company's staff never attended these courses.

Court documents state that Ho was a trainer of Loyal Reliance, a training provider approved by WDA under the Funding for Employer-based Training Scheme initiative, from November 2013 to April 2015.

Under the scheme, which aimed to encourage firms to upgrade their workers' skills, companies can claim a training grant when their employees complete a course run by approved training providers. This is provided that the employees attain a minimum level of attendance, among other conditions.

As part of the claims process, the company must submit information such as the number of hours each trainee had achieved for the course. It may also choose to submit supporting documents like the attendance records of the trainees.

The court heard that Ho reported to Serene Loh Peh Wen, an independent training consultant engaged by Loyal Reliance at that time.

Loh was sentenced to 29 months' jail in January this year after she admitted in court to being involved in a wider scam that cheated WDA of almost $73,000.

Court documents state that between March 2014 and March 2015, Ho signed on the attendance records and assessment forms of five training courses for the employees of Yoke Mah Plasterceil, a client under Loh's training portfolio.

He also blocked out the training dates for the courses in his calendar.

The court heard that Ho did so on Loh's instructions, even though he did not conduct the courses nor was he present at them. Yoke Mah employees did not attend the courses either.

 
 

According to court documents, training grant claims for the courses were then submitted to WDA, along with the attendance records signed off by Ho for two of the courses.

The court heard that as a result of the fraudulent claims, WDA disbursed almost $37,000 in grants. Ho was paid more than $9,000 in training fees by Loyal Reliance, which he has since surrendered to the court.

WDA was reconstituted in 2016 into two statutory boards, Workforce Singapore and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG).

The total amount disbursed by WDA due to the false claims has since been compensated to SSG .

 
 

Defence lawyer Ms Tan Yew Cheng said in a written mitigation plea that Ho did not know of the broader scheme masterminded by Loh to defraud the WDA.

"His mistake was in trusting Loh's representations to him," she added.

For each charge of falsifying documents, Ho could have been jailed for up to 10 years, or fined, or both.