HDB to automate checks on applications for grants

It has moved to recover money disbursed wrongly to 12 who didn't declare material info

The Housing Board's grant disbursement system - which, among other things, determines an applicant's eligibility - is being automated.

The updated system will be able to accurately assess eligibility even when applicants fail to declare material information to HDB, such as ownership of property or alternative income streams, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said in Parliament yesterday.

His remarks were made after the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) in July found that housing grants totalling $405,000 were disbursed to 13 ineligible applicants.

Mr Lee said HDB has taken immediate steps to recover Central Provident Fund (CPF) housing grants that were erroneously given to 12 ineligible applicants. One of the applicants flagged by AGO was correctly assessed, he added.

The AGO's findings came after it carried out a data analysis of resale flat buyers who had applied for and obtained either the Family Grant or Singles Grant from April 1, 2018, to Sept 30 last year.

Of the 22,627 who had applied for a total of $807.77 million in family or singles grants, the AGO noted that 1,152 applicants might not be eligible for either of them.

The AGO test-checked 97 of these applicants and found 13 ineligible ones among them.

The eligibility status of the remaining 1,055 applicants flagged by the AGO is being verified by HDB. Checks should be completed by the end of the year and the results will be reported, said Mr Lee.

The Family Grant gives up to $50,000 to married or engaged couples and families who are buying a resale flat for the first time, while the Singles Grant gives up to $25,000 to single applicants aged 35 or above.

Yesterday, Mr Lee said grants were wrongly disbursed to 12 applicants who had failed to declare material information to HDB, such as their actual income and private property ownership.

The omissions were not detected in the verification checks.

In response to questions by Workers' Party's (WP) Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC), Mr Lee said the non-disclosures in each case will be looked at individually.

"We'll look at the facts and circumstances behind each case. Some of the suppression of material may have been deliberate and some may have been a misunderstanding. We'll have to look at it case by case," he said.

HDB assesses each grant application by manually verifying, among other things, the declared incomes against the documents submitted by the applicants and their flat occupiers.

These documents include pay slips, employers' letters, commission statements, CPF contribution histories and notices of income tax assessment.

For ownership of private property, the HDB verifies documents such as the notice of transfer, transfer instrument, and sale and purchase agreement.

"The verification process is often complex, especially when flat buyers and their occupiers have multiple sources of income or property ownership, both local and overseas," said Mr Lee.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2021, with the headline 'HDB to automate checks on applications for grants'. Subscribe