SkillsFuture sets up division to counter fraudulent claims

A SkillsFuture roadshow by the Workforce Development Agency.
A SkillsFuture roadshow by the Workforce Development Agency. PHOTO: ST FILE

SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), the government agency that gives out grants and funding for lifelong training, is shoring up its defences against fraud.

It announced yesterday that it has set up a dedicated fraud and enforcement division to monitor and detect suspicious claims, investigate the parties involved and take the necessary action.

The move comes after SSG fell victim to the biggest fraud case involving a government agency in Singapore history.

The Straits Times reported that between May and October last year, a network of nine dormant entities - three training providers and six applicant entities - was used to submit more than 8,000 fraudulent course-fee grant applications and corresponding claims to SSG.

They were submitted on the basis that training courses were purportedly provided by the three training providers to about 25,000 employees of the six applicant entities.

As a result, SSG disbursed $39.9 million in course-fee subsidies.

Earlier this week, Lee Chi Wai, 32, one of five people charged over the scam last year, was sentenced to five years and eight months' jail for money laundering.

Cases against the other four are pending.

Restitution of $30,000 has been made and the authorities have seized $6.7 million in cash and 11kg of gold with a value of $626,500.

SSG said it was unable to disclose more details about the case as investigations are still ongoing.

The agency said it has set up a partnership with the Government Technology Agency of Singapore, which leads tech transformations in the public sector, and other private sector consultants to incorporate the use of data analytics in its fraud detection system.

This includes developing machine-learning algorithms to detect anomalies in claim submissions and highlight claims requiring further investigation.

Confirmed fraudulent claims will be fed back into the algorithms to sharpen the system's ability and speed in detecting future fraudulent claims.

Data is also being verified with other government agencies such as the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

When handling potential fraud cases, inquiries or site visits will be conducted and disbursement will be withheld while investigations are taking place.

SSG chief executive Ng Cher Pong said: "With fraudsters devising increasingly elaborate scams, our fraud risk management system is evolving to better safeguard the funds earmarked for the skills development of our workforce.

"We will not tolerate individuals and companies that abuse this system, and they will be severely dealt with."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2018, with the headline 'SkillsFuture sets up division to counter fraudulent claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe