2 men jailed for abusing SkillsFuture Credits scheme

SINGAPORE - Two men were jailed on Tuesday (Dec 19) for cheating the then-Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) of cash totalling $19,780.

This is the first time offenders were dealt with in court for abusing its SkillsFuture Credits (SFC) scheme.

School bus coordinator Tan Yu Sheng, 29, was jailed for eight months after causing $8,960 in losses to WDA. He pleaded guilty to seven cheating charges involving $3,480.

Operations manager Sim Chee Kiong, 41, was jailed for six months for causing WDA $10,820 in losses. He admitted to six cheating charges involving $2,960.

Court documents showed that both of them committed the offences with alleged mastermind Eric Zheng Zhenwei, 35, whose case is still pending.

The SFC scheme was launched in January last year to encourage individuals to take ownership of their skill development and lifelong learning.

Under the initiative, all Singaporeans aged 25 and above receive an opening credit of $500 in their SFC accounts which can be used to pay for approved skills-related courses. To use the SFC, trainees must submit a claim to WDA. They had to cancel a submitted claim if they failed to attend the course.

Zheng is the sole director of Biz HR Solutionz, a company providing human resources consultancy services. It was also a WDA-endorsed training provider.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Haniza Abnass said that in early January last year, he allegedly masterminded a plan to defraud the SFC scheme.

She added: "He contacted his friends... and offered them $150 to $200 cash if they registered for Biz HR's courses using their SFC. He further enticed them by telling them that course attendance was optional, and that they would receive the cash when WDA disbursed their SFCs to Biz HR."

Tan and Sim decided to be part of the plan to expand Biz HR's trainee intake. The trio promoted the firm's courses to their own contacts. They offered a $200 cash incentive in exchange for their contacts' $500 or $480 SFC.

Tan and Sim followed Zheng's instructions and told their contacts they would still receive the cash if they did not attend the courses.

Between Jan 1 and April 2 last year, Zheng recruited 380 trainees to submit claims to WDA. The court heard that 293 of these claims were approved and WDA disbursed $144,840 to Biz HR. WDA withheld the remaining 87 claims. Out of the 380 trainees, Tan was involved in referring 89 while Sim, 73.

For each trainee whom Tan and Sim successfully referred to the firm, Zheng paid the duo $250 each after receiving the trainee's SFC monies from WDA.

Tan and Sim would then pay their trainees $200 each and pocketed the remainder as "referral fees". Zheng allegedly kept the remaining $250 or $230 for himself.