SINGAPORE: SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) has improved its ability to detect and act against suspected fraudulent claims, but it might need "intermediate options" to enforce, investigate and take errant training providers to court, Senior Minister of State for Education Chee Hong Tat said.
Speaking on Friday (Aug 2) at a briefing on the statutory board’s fraud risk management system, Mr Chee said only cases of suspected fraud are handled by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).
For cases of abuse or non-compliance, SkillsFuture will terminate or suspend the training provider.
READ: Kaplan Professional suspended from WSQ accreditation, SkillsFuture funding over 'serious lapses'
Mr Chee added: “Something which we are currently reviewing – what are our legislative powers, what enforcement actions can we take, what are the penalties.
"Today if we look at it, we have, on one hand, some of the contractual powers that we have, with training providers, and on the other hand, we can refer cases of suspected fraud to CAD.
"Whether in between, we need some intermediate options for SSG to be able to have the powers to enforce, investigate and to impose penalties to take some of the errant providers to court, this is something which my colleagues and I are now reviewing and if we need to change the law, we will table a Bill and go to Parliament.”
SSG has taken action on 22 cases of abuse or non-compliance to its terms and conditions from January to June this year.
There were 33 cases for the whole of 2018, including two cases of fraud which are currently being investigated by the CAD.
SSG’s fraud and enforcement division was set up in November last year after an Inter-Agency Process Review Task Force conducted a review of its processes.
The 20-member team conducts checks on organisations that register with SSG, as well as every claim that comes through. SSG receives more than 600,000 claims every year.
Each claim is scored for risk using a machine learning-based fraud analytics system. This allows for suspicious activity to be quickly detected, such as if an organisation receives a huge spike in claims in a short period of time.
A pilot trial of a QR code attendance taking system is also underway. It will replace pen-and-paper attendance marking, making it tougher to abuse the system, especially as each check-in location will be logged.
SSG aims to have a full roll-out of this attendance taking system by next year.
Mr Chee said “beefing up” the fraud management system will make sure the SkillsFuture scheme is not “tarnished by the actions of a small number of black sheep who are trying to cheat and abuse the system”.
In 2016, Singaporeans were given S$500 in SkillsFuture credit, which can be used for training courses. Since then, reports of abuse have surfaced.
In 2017, 4,400 people were caught making bogus SkillsFuture credit claims amounting to S$2.2 million. In that same year, a syndicate was found to have used nine shell companies to illegally claim almost S$40 million from SSG.
In June, Kaplan Professional was suspended as an approved training organisation under the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) due to "serious lapses". SSG did not elaborate on the lapses.
The 12-month suspension started on Jul 1.