SINGAPORE: Less than 0.2 per cent, or 229 sets, of Budget 2020 grocery vouchers that were mailed out to 150,000 Singaporeans last month were reported stolen as of Oct 28, said Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah on Monday (Nov 2).
Investigations into these reported cases of theft are under way, with the police having made 55 arrests thus far, she told Parliament.
These grocery vouchers, part of the Government’s Care and Support Package first announced in February, aim to help the lower-income with household expenses during the COVID-19 downturn.
Only those aged 21 and above this year, live in 1-room and 2-room HDB flats and do not own more than one property, will receive the vouchers. A majority are aged 55 and above, said Ms Indranee.
The first batch of vouchers, each worth S$150, was mailed out early last month to the 150,000 Singaporeans via tracked registered mail. But there has been a recent spate of thefts and subsequent arrests over the stealing of these vouchers from letterboxes at HDB blocks across Singapore.
READ: Man arrested for allegedly stealing Budget 2020 grocery vouchers from letterboxes at Marine Terrace
In response to questions from Members of Parliament, Ms Indranee said a “vast majority” of the grocery vouchers reached their intended recipients “smoothly”.
Only 229 sets - or less than 0.2 per cent - of the vouchers, were reported as stolen as of Oct 28.
Based on investigations by the Singapore Police Force, the thefts “appear to be opportunistic and the cases are not linked”, she added, noting that the letterboxes were left unlocked in some cases.
“A small number of vouchers reported as stolen had been voided and replacement vouchers are being issued to eligible recipients,” Ms Indranee told the House.
“We encourage everyone to keep the letter boxes locked and repair any damaged letter boxes to avoid that.”
WHY ARE VOUCHERS MAILED OUT
Public health constraints amid the pandemic, convenience and security were among the factors that had to be considered in the delivery of these grocery vouchers. Digital vouchers, for instance, were ruled out as some of the recipients may not have a smartphone or mobile data plan, said Ms Indranee.
“If digital vouchers were used, more time and effort would have been needed to first provide appropriate digital interfaces before the recipients can receive the intended support with their household expenses,” she explained.
“That said, as digital literacy improves among older Singaporeans, we may be able to consider digital vouchers for this group in future.”
Self-collection at the nearest community centres was also considered but this would create additional inconvenience for seniors, especially those with mobility issues. Crowding might also occur at the collection points, said Ms Indranee.
“So on balance, we sent the grocery vouchers via registered mail for optimal convenience to the intended recipients,” she added.
Singapore Post has adopted contactless delivery measures earlier this year, including the redirecting of registered mails to letterboxes, due to the COVID-19 safety requirements in place.
It will “monitor and verify successful deliveries to recipients’ letter boxes with a photo taken by the postman as proof of delivery”, said Ms Indranee.
To mitigate theft and fraud, each voucher has unique features to enable authorities to identify intended recipients and trace any voucher to specific locations and time of transaction.
“That said, we will continue to review the ongoing disbursements to balance between security and convenience for recipients,” she said.