SINGAPORE: About 3,000 public service officers past and present will be compensated with a total of around S$10 million after errors were found in the civil service’s human resource (HR) records, the Public Service Division (PSD) said on Wednesday (Nov 18).
“The errors arose primarily because of human errors in data entry and coding of the HR and payroll IT systems,” PSD said. “The IT systems also had inadequate error detection capabilities.”
Most of the errors - discovered during upgrading of the systems - are related to inaccuracies in the full-time National Service duration records of male civil servants.
“Since 2002, the Civil Service has recognised the ‘fitness cut’ period that a full-time national serviceman was eligible for, as part of the NS period recognised for the purposes of determining starting salary and service benefits,” PSD said, referring to the reduction in NS liability granted to servicemen who meet physical fitness requirements.
“However, we discovered that the ‘fitness cut’ period was not included in the HR records of some male civil servants. This in turn affected their leave and other benefits.”
The rest of the errors affected retired civil servants as well as civil servants who went on service injury leave.
“The other errors involve inaccuracies in the IT algorithms used to calculate the medical leave wages for civil servants on service injury leave, as well as errors in the HR system program to compute the payments that some pensioners make when they retire from the Civil Service in order to receive annual allowances,” PSD said.
Regarding these inaccuracies, PSD said in response to queries by CNA that it first suspected that there were errors around mid-late 2017. PSD added that it then took time to trace the specific algorithms and formula that were wrong before identifying officers who were adversely affected.
As for the errors relating to the full-time National Service duration records, PSD told CNA: "We first noticed potential discrepancies in the FTNS HR records sometime in 2018."
READ: Civil Service to place more weight on skills, competencies in assessing officers' performance: Chan Chun Sing
Following the discovery of the errors, PSD traced and validated the sources of the errors and worked with civil service agencies to scan 102,000 records dating back to the 1990s in order to recalculate benefits.
“Through the extensive process, which took more than two years, about 3,000 former and currently serving officers in the Civil Service were found to have been undercompensated as a result of the errors,” PSD said, adding that the number accounts for about 2 per cent of the civil servants who have served over the past 20 years.
“The Civil Service will make good the shortfall in benefits to existing and past officers. The total compensation is around S$10 million.”
Of the 3,000 undercompensated individuals, two-thirds will receive less than S$1,000 in compensation, PSD told CNA.
ABOUT 2,000 INDIVIDUALS OVERCOMPENSATED; TOTAL AMOUNT INVOLVED S$3.9 MILLION
While PSD noted that there were also individuals who were overcompensated, it said that excess payments resulting “from errors made a long time ago” will not be recovered.
PSD said about 2,000 individuals in the civil service were overcompensated, involving a total amount of S$3.9 million.
"As the errors date back to about 25 years ago and occurred through no fault of the officer, the Government will not recover these excess payments," said a PSD spokesperson in response to CNA's queries.
The civil service will be notifying affected individuals from this month until March 2021, with shortfalls to be validated and paid out between now and the middle of next year.
In-service civil servants will be notified by their respective HR departments, while those who are no longer in the service will receive a notification via registered mail at their last known address, in addition to phone calls and home visits.
“As we will be proactively reaching out to all individuals who have been undercompensated, we will like to assure both in-service and ex-public officers that there is no need to rush to contact us,” PSD said. “If they have not been contacted by March 2021, they are not adversely impacted by the errors.”
As these were potentially errors that affected multiple officers, PSD said it had considered whether to start notifying affected individuals while it verified the extent of the impact, or to begin the communication and rectification later, when PSD was “more sure”.
“On balance, we felt it was important to check through the records comprehensively before notifying the individuals in a systematic exercise. This is so that we can better appreciate the extent of the workforce that is materially affected. Moreover, the friends or colleagues of individuals who were adversely affected and informed, may also wonder if they are affected, and we will be in a better position to address their concerns,” said PSD.
PSD added that it will be making good the shortfall with interest to make up for the time lapse.
Mr Loh Khum Yean, Permanent Secretary of PSD, apologised for the errors on behalf of the public service.
“The Public Service is deeply sorry for the errors and inconvenience caused. We will make every effort to reach out to every adversely impacted individual to apologise for the error, explain the situation, as well as make good the discrepancy,” he said.
“We have rectified the system programming and built-in error detection capabilities to flag potential errors and ensure such inaccuracies do not recur.”