HPB improves monitoring of fitness trackers after wastage of 341,000 trackers worth $5.39 million

Audits as well as physical stock checks of such trackers are now done twice a year instead of annually.
Audits as well as physical stock checks of such trackers are now done twice a year instead of annually.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The Health Promotion Board (HPB) now tracks the distribution of fitness trackers daily to detect signs of excess stocks building up, after it wasted $5.39 million of public funds due to trackers not being put to use.

In a parliamentary written reply on Tuesday (Aug 3), Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said HPB has improved its processes for monitoring the distribution and stocks of its fitness trackers.

Audits as well as physical stock checks of such trackers are now done twice a year instead of annually, and excess inventory from previous years will be counted towards providing trackers for the following year's activity.

"Moving forward, HPB will be more conservative in its projections of the number of fitness trackers to be procured. Any additional purchase of trackers will be done only when excess bookings are received from participants," said Mr Ong.

He was replying to Workers' Party MP Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC), who asked if HPB will consider distributing to the public any still-functional fitness trackers that were among the 341,000 excess ones that it purchased for the National Steps Challenge.

The Auditor-General's Office (AGO) said last month that $5.39 million of public funds were wasted due to these 341,000 fitness trackers that were not put to use.

Mr Ong said that of the excess trackers, 120,000 remain functional. Out of these, 48,000 have been used to replace trackers that are faulty or with expired warranties.

About 3,000 trackers have gone to community partners, companies, and other government agencies for their health and wellness initiatives.

The remaining 69,000 functional trackers will be used for similar purposes, he added.

"Unfortunately, the rest of the excess fitness trackers have been disposed of, as they have exceeded the average useful life or were no longer functional."

The minister said HPB  has broadened the replacement criteria for a programme to exchange these trackers one-to-one. It will proactively inform participants of the health challenge as well, so that they will come forward to exchange trackers that are defective.

The Straits Times earlier reported that HPB started offering a one-to-one exchange of fitness trackers for participants from March this year, after the AGO flagged the excess.

Mr Ong added that his ministry will closely monitor the implementation of these measures, and work with HPB to "determine accountability and the prudent use of resources".