The Police have charged a Social Service Office (SSO) officer, Chia Kwang Hwee, under the Penal Code, Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act and the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.
On 14 August 2014, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) was alerted by a ComCare beneficiary that he had not received his financial assistance payments. Upon investigation, the Ministry found information suggesting that a SSO officer from the Geylang Serai office could have misappropriated funds meant for financial assistance payments. On 15 August 2014, the Ministry filed a Police report.
The Police investigated the matter with full cooperation from the Ministry. MSF also suspended the officer from his duties from the time the Police report was filed.
Immediately following the incident, the Ministry contacted all affected families to ensure the assistance they needed were not affected by the case.
The Ministry’s internal auditor has conducted checks on all the SSOs’ payment records, and confirmed that there were no other occurrences of a similar nature.
The Ministry has also reviewed and strengthened systems, processes and controls at all the SSOs. As part of this effort, the Ministry had convened an independent review panel comprising senior officials from other government agencies to look into the checks and control mechanisms for financial assistance payments in all the SSOs. The Ministry has implemented the Panel’s recommendations. Examples of the changes made include:
- Strengthening the administration of access to our IT system;
- Including additional checks to ensure payments to clients; and
- Allocating cases such that no officer will be allowed to take charge of a particular client for more than two consecutive years.
Please see the Annex below for background on the case.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development does not condone or tolerate any conduct that undermines the integrity of our social assistance system and interest of our beneficiaries, and would not hesitate to take appropriate action against any officer with such conduct.
Background on the Case
- MSF started rolling out the network of Social Service Offices (SSOs) island-wide since July 2013. These are staffed by MSF officers who had previously undertaken the disbursement of social assistance prior to the setting up of the SSOs.
- As a team leader, Chia’s job scope included assessing applications for financial assistance and putting them up to his supervisor for approval, approving assistance for cases handled by other officers in his team, and case-managing families with multiple needs.
- On 14 Aug 2014, the management of the SSO at Geylang Serai detected suspicious social assistance transactions involving one officer, Chia Kwang Hwee, where the GIRO payments for 26 clients were disbursed into 2 bank accounts.
- On 15 Aug 2014, MSF lodged a police report against Chia for alleged fraud after confirming that one of the said accounts was Chia’s payroll account.
- On 18 Aug 2014, the police arrested Chia.
- On 19 Aug 2014, MSF interdicted Chia from duties.
- Immediately following the incident, MSF contacted all 42 affected clients to ensure that the assistance they needed were met accordingly.
- On 15 Sep 2014, MSF appointed an Independent Review Panel to review and report on the circumstances surrounding the alleged misappropriation of social assistance funds by an officer in SSO at Geylang Serai and recommend necessary changes in internal controls for the handling of social assistance payments.
- The Panel reviewed three areas – system, process and people – in which the MSF and SSO at Geylang Serai operated in, as well as transactions to assess the adequacy and effectiveness of the prevailing social administration and disbursement process.
- The Ministry has implemented the Panel’s recommendations.