Government has recovered ‘over 99%’ of the S$370 million wage support grants wrongly paid to firms
SINGAPORE: The Government has recovered “over 99 per cent” of the S$370 million wrongly paid to companies as part of the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), said Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah during the Ministry of Finance’s Committee of Supply debate on Wednesday (Mar 2).
The wage support grants were erroneously paid to about 5,400 companies in October 2020 due to mistakes in computing the disbursements. There were “errors in the compilation and processing of business reopening dates” after the COVID-19 circuit breaker period that year, authorities said in a media release in April last year.
Responding to a question from Member of Parliament Foo Mee Har (PAP-West Coast) on the controls and governance for pandemic-related support schemes, Ms Indranee said the Government “struck a balance between keeping processes simple and putting in place controls to prevent abuse or errors” as it looked to roll out such schemes quickly.
A risk assessment was done for the JSS, she added. For cases with higher fraud risk, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) required firms to authenticate their CPF contributions before releasing payouts.
IRAS has denied payments to employers who attempt to abuse the scheme and as of last week, it referred 14 cases to the police for investigation, she added.
“Despite these efforts, given the unprecedented complexity and the need for urgent disbursement across the board through JSS, there were some mistakes which are deeply regretted. When such an instance was discovered, we took immediate efforts to rectify them,” she said.
“Out of the S$370 million JSS overpayment discovered earlier, we have recovered over 99 per cent and are working on recovering the rest."
With the pandemic continuing to disrupt global supply chains and business activities, the Government is aware of the pressures and challenges faced by companies.
“The Government has therefore continued to provide support to alleviate the impact of the pandemic, and made adjustments with changing circumstances,” Ms Indranee said.
“We will continue to monitor the situation going into 2022 and adjust our measures as necessary.”
In her speech, Ms Indranee also touched on how the Government has been playing its part as a “socially responsible and environmentally conscious buyer”.
For example, the Government will require eligible suppliers to be accredited with the Progressive Wage Mark from March 2023 to support lower-wage workers.
“Today, our suppliers for security, cleaning, lift maintenance and landscaping are already required to pay progressive wages,” she told the House.
“Along with the expansion of the Progressive Wage Model, the requirement for suppliers to obtain the Progressive Wage Mark will be extended to the retail, food services and waste management sectors, and suppliers with in-house cleaners, security officers, landscape workers, administrators, and drivers,” she said, adding that the Ministry of Manpower will share more on progressive wages during its Committee of Supply debate.
Among other efforts, the Government has also incorporated sustainability requirements in its tenders.
For instance, all new government buildings and premises undergoing major renovation are required to meet Green Mark standards under the GreenGov.SG initiative. It also considers the sustainability credentials of suppliers during the evaluation of government tenders.
Ms Indranee noted that the Government also supports businesses in going green through support schemes such as Enterprise Singapore’s Enterprise Sustainability Programme and the Economic Development Board’s Resource Efficiency Grant for Energy.