Childcare centre ex-principal fined over role to cheat Early Childhood Development Agency

Fatimah Bivee Mohd Shariff was the principal of the Faith Educare Centre @ Compassvale in 2016.
Fatimah Bivee Mohd Shariff was the principal of the Faith Educare Centre @ Compassvale in 2016.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS

SINGAPORE - The former principal of a childcare centre was fined $3,000 on Thursday (July 1) for conspiring to dupe the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) into disbursing grants worth $2,700 in total in 2016.

Fatimah Bivee Mohd Shariff, who was then employed by the now-defunct Faith Educare chain, did not benefit directly from the conspiracy.

The court heard that the 43-year-old Singaporean had acted on instructions from its director Josephine Tan Poh Choo, 53, who has since made full restitution.

Fatimah pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of abetment by conspiracy to cheat. The sum involved was $900.

Three other charges against her involving the remaining $1,800 were considered during sentencing.

The cases involving Tan and a second former colleague Arulanandam Rajeswary, 53, are still pending.

The ECDA is the regulatory and developmental agency for the early childhood sector in Singapore.

It is an autonomous agency overseen by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Kee En said that parents could apply for basic childcare subsidies from the ECDA for kindergartens and childcare centres.

The basic subsidy was $300 per month per child for working parents.

The ECDA disbursed these basic subsidies directly to the childcare centres each month, so that parents only had to pay the subsidised childcare fees to the centres.

To apply for these basic subsidies, parents had to complete, sign and submit forms to the childcare centres.

Upon the parent's registration, the childcare centre would then key in the details provided by the parents into the ECDA's Childcare Link System (CCLS).

Fatimah was the principal of the Faith Educare Centre @ Compassvale when a two-year-old boy started attending it in September 2016.

Records, however, showed that he had purportedly attended the centre between June and August that year.

The DPP said: "Investigations revealed that some time in 2015 to January 2016, Tan instructed Rajeswary to submit basic childcare subsidy claims in the CCLS for children who did not attend the centre, which would include (the boy), by using information previously obtained from the ECDA forms...even though the children did not or would not have yet attended the centre on that particular month."

The court heard that Rajeswary was to "confirm" the child's attendance.

Fatimah had to sign "on behalf" of the parents in the "sign-in and sign-out" records that the child was purportedly there.

The DPP said that Rajeswary submitted the claims and confirmed the two-year-old boy's attendance at the centre between June and August 2016 even though he had not attended it.

As a result, ECDA was dishonestly induced to deliver $900 to Faith Educare Centre @ Compassvale.

For committing the crime, an offender can be jailed for up to three years and fined.