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Singapore

Ex-healthcare assistant admits dishonestly using S$32,000 in salary wrongly given to her by hospital

SINGAPORE: After being terminated from her job, a former healthcare assistant continued to receive her monthly salary from Tan Tock Seng Hospital due to an error in the human resource system.

Between August 2018 and December 2019, she received more than S$32,000 in monthly salaries to her bank account for a job she no longer held, and dishonestly transferred the sums out of the account for her own use.

She also used her supposed "employee" status to get co-payments for hospital bills.

Nurul Atiqah Kamsari, 25, pleaded guilty on Thursday (Dec 10) to two counts of dishonestly removing property and cheating hospital staff into believing she was entitled to staff medical benefits. Another two similar charges will be taken into consideration for sentencing.

The court heard that Nurul worked as a healthcare assistant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) from March 2017 to August 2018, earning a monthly salary of S$1,630. She was also entitled to shift allowance.

She did not report for work on Aug 16, 2018 and Aug 17, 2018, and did not tell her supervisors or colleagues why she was absent. Since then, Nurul stopped reporting for work at TTSH, said court documents. 

"As the accused was absent from work for more than two consecutive working days without reasonable excuse or without prior leave approved by her supervisor ... (she) was deemed to have voluntarily terminated service from TTSH," the court documents added.

Her last day of employment with the hospital was Aug 17, 2018.

But her details, including her bank account number, erroneously remained in the hospital's human resource system, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Emily Koh.

As the human resource system was linked to the hospital's payroll system, Nurul's previously drawn monthly salary continued to be credited into her POSB account each month.

In response to queries from CNA, Tan Tock Seng Hospital said a "clerical error" was the reason for Nurul staying on the hospital's payroll system despite her dismissal. 

"TTSH has since thoroughly conducted an internal review and tightened our processes," added the hospital.

LEFT JOB BUT STILL RECEIVED SALARY

Nurul continued to receive her "salary" from the hospital for more than a year after leaving, and she knew that the money was erroneously credited to her, the court heard.

However, she did not return the money or inform the hospital about it. Instead, she removed the cash from her account via bank transfers, cash withdrawals or debit card deductions.

On top of this, when she went to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for a consultation in October 2019, she told the cashier that she was an employee at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and entitled to staff medical benefits. Both hospitals are under the National Healthcare Group, and such benefits are offered to their staff members.

She left the hospital without having to pay for her bill, as Tan Tock Seng Hospital covered part of her bill as an "employee" and the other portion was to be deducted from her "salary".

HOSPITAL FINDS OUT ABOUT MISTAKE

A senior executive with Tan Tock Seng Hospital's human resource department learnt on Jan 9 this year that Nurul had continued to receive her monthly salary despite her termination.

The hospital began internal investigations and discovered that Nurul had visited Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on two occasions and incurred medical bills that were covered by Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

The senior executive lodged a police report on Jan 23. Nurul admitted that she had used a sum of S$32,241.76 that was wrongly credited to her as salary for her own purposes. She has not made any restitution for this and no money was recovered from her POSB account.

However, she repaid the hospital the S$29.60 in medical bills.

The prosecutor said Nurul had a previous conviction of theft in 2010, for which she was sentenced to a juvenile home.

The defence asked for an adjournment as she had prepared her mitigation on the prosecution's previous indicated sentence for four months' jail. They are now seeking more than that.

Nurul will return to court for mitigation and sentencing in January. 

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said the prosecution had submitted for four months’ jail.  The AGC has clarified that this was not officially submitted in court.

Source: CNA/ll(mi)

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