Childcare centre chain drew CDA funds without approval

Sweetlands' operators have 14 days to clarify irregularities in Child Development Accounts

A couple running a childcare centre chain were found by the authorities to be making unauthorised withdrawals from the Child Development Accounts (CDA) of children under their care.

Madam Chan Chew Shia and Mr Ho Boon Hong, who run the Sweetlands chain of 11 centres, also made wrongful claims for Government childcare subsidies, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in a statement yesterday. The couple have been notified that their status as Approved Persons will be revoked within 14 days, unless they provide satisfactory reasons why this should not take place.

This means that they will no longer be authorised to make any deductions from CDAs.

Typically, institutions under the Baby Bonus Scheme can deduct money from these accounts to pay for childcare and other related fees.

The matter has been referred to the police. If convicted of breaching the Child Development Co-savings Regulations, Madam Chan and her husband may each face a fine of up to $20,000.

The ministry said that it conducts regular audits to make sure that there are no irregularities in deductions made from such centres.

It added that Sweetlands centres will not be stopped from operating.

Instead, a temporary Approved Person will be appointed by the ministry until the chain finds a suitable replacement.

However, the ministry will closely monitor all CDA deductions and claims during the chain's 14-day notice period.

"All centres will continue to operate, as there are no issues in terms of the safety or well-being of the children," said MSF in the statement. "We have contacted the parents whose children are enrolled in Sweetlands centres to explain the situation and provide the necessary support and assurance."

It stressed that parents "need not be alarmed or take any action".

All centres must give parents a receipt with details on fees charged, including subsidies received and discounts applicable.

Parents who are concerned over whether unauthorised deductions have been made should verify this receipt against their monthly CDA bank statements.

If they detect any irregularity, they can take up the matter with the institution or MSF.

MSF added that it has not found any unauthorised CDA deductions at other institutions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'Childcare centre chain drew CDA funds without approval'. Print Edition | Subscribe