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Singapore

HDB took action to recover housing grants wrongly disbursed, to automate eligibility check process

SINGAPORE: Immediate action was taken by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to recover housing grants that were wrongly disbursed to 12 ineligible applicants, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee in Parliament on Monday (Sep 13).

HDB is also working to verify the eligibility of the remaining 1,055 applicants flagged by the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) in its latest audit of public agencies.

This verification process should be completed “by or before the year-end”, Mr Lee said in response to questions by Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim (WP-Aljunied) on the lapses detected by the AGO in its July report.

The AGO, in its audit of government accounts for the year 2020/2021, said housing grants totalling S$405,000 had been disbursed to ineligible applicants.

This was uncovered after checks on 22,627 resale HDB applications that obtained either the Family Grant or Singles Grant during the period of Apr 1, 2018, to Sep 30 last year.

“AGO found that HDB had disbursed grants to 13 applicants who did not meet the eligibility criteria. Of the 13 applicants, HDB has since verified that one applicant had in fact been correctly assessed for the grant disbursement,” Mr Lee told the House.

Further investigations revealed that the grants were wrongly disbursed for the remaining 12 applicants because “the applicants had failed to declare material information such as their actual income and private property ownership to HDB”.

The omission of this information was not detected in the verification checks, the minister added.

Ms Lim asked if there could be some cases where the suppression of information was not deliberate and may have stemmed from a misunderstanding about the eligibility criteria or information that needed to be provided.

Mr Lee replied that authorities will look at the facts and circumstances behind each case.

“Some of the instances of suppression of material information may have been deliberate; some of it may have been a misunderstanding. We’ll have to look at it case by case.”

Apart from taking action to recover the grants, HDB will also implement process improvements and automate eligibility check processes.

Applicants for Central Provident Fund (CPF) housing grants must declare all relevant information about themselves and the proposed occupiers of their HDB flats, as well as submit documentary proof of income, employment and details of private property ownership if any.

HDB then assesses each application by manually verifying the declared incomes against the documents submitted by the applicants and their occupiers. These include payslips, employers’ letters, commission statements and history of CPF contributions. 

For ownership of private property, HDB will verify documents such as the Notice of Transfer, Transfer Instrument, as well as the Sale & Purchase Agreement. 

Mr Lee said the verification process is often complex, especially when flat buyers and their occupiers have multiple sources of income or property ownership, both local and overseas.

The process improvements and automation of checks, he added, will allow HDB to more efficiently and accurately assess the eligibility of applicants even if they fail to declare material information.

Source: CNA/sk(gs)

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