Kindergarten employee jailed for six months after misappropriating over $10,000

SINGAPORE - A kindergarten employee was jailed for six months on Thursday (June 25) after misappropriating over $10,000 from it.

Zakiyah Banu Hajah Mohideen, 31, pleaded guilty to one charge of criminal breach of trust for pocketing $7,060 between October 2017 and September 2018.

One similar charge for misappropriating $3,240 between October 2018 and February 2019 was taken into consideration during sentencing by District Judge Salina Ishak.

The court heard that Zakiyah had been employed as an administrative executive with the Ministry of Education (MOE) since 2016.

She had been deployed to the MOE Kindergarten @ Westwood, which is located at Westwood Primary School in Jurong West Street 73, from Feb 29, 2016, onwards.

From March 2016, Zakiyah was in charge of collecting school fees. She would receive the money from the parents of the kindergarten's pupils and place it in a drawer, which would then be locked.

Aside from entering details of the school fees collected online, she also had to record the collection in a hard copy cash collection book and ensure that the amount collected tallied with the records in the book.

The court heard that Zakiyah misappropriated a total sum of $7,060 that she had collected between Oct 1, 2017 and Sept 28, 2018.

The executive also feigned ignorance in March 2019, when the kindergarten's principal informed her about an apparent discrepancy in relation to some school fees.

One of the parents claimed that the fees had been completely paid but they were still registered as outstanding.

Zakiyah eventually admitted to her offences when she was later confronted by the kindergarten's management about discrepancies in the records relating to the collection of school fees.

She has also since made full restitution to the kindergarten.

In urging the court to jail Zakiyah for at least eight months, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kevin Ho said that she had attempted to avoid detection by hiding the cash collection book at home.

Zakiyah's lawyer Mr Koh Jian Ying said in mitigation that his client was suffering from a high level of stress at that time, as she was dealing with the breakdown of her marriage and her husband was giving her minimal financial support then.

In a statement on Thursday, the MOE said that Zakiyah had been suspended since March 2019.

"MOE takes a serious view of staff misconduct and will not hesitate to take disciplinary action against those who fail to adhere to our standards of conduct and discipline, including dismissal from service," it said.

"Following the sentencing, MOE will commence our disciplinary process accordingly."

The MOE also said that it has tightened the billing and collections process to prevent such cases of misappropriation.

"We also encourage the usage of cashless payments, and have reminded our schools and MOE kindergartens to be more vigilant in cash management," it added.

For her offence, Zakiyah could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined.

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