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1,000 self-employed individuals asked to return COVID-19 SIRS payouts due to erroneous declarations

1,000 self-employed individuals asked to return COVID-19 SIRS payouts due to erroneous declarations

Pedestrians are seen at Orchard Road in Singapore on Dec 8, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: About 1,000 self-employed individuals have been made to refund their Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) payouts due to erroneous declarations of income and property information.

These individuals make up 0.5 per cent of all SIRS recipients, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 5).

SIRS is a financial assistance grant of up to S$9,000 to help freelancers tide through the pandemic, and is subject to both an audit by the Manpower Ministry and an external auditor appointed by the National Trades Union Congress.

SIRS was made available to self-employed people who earn a net trade income of up to S$100,000 a year and live in a property with an annual value that does not exceed S$21,000. They must also not own two or more properties. 

READ: About S$1.8 billion paid out to 200,000 self-employed people under COVID-19 relief scheme

Member of Parliament Jamus Lim asked why these mistakes occurred if the criteria for SIRS was so “stringent”.

Mrs Teo said the Government had many grants to disburse within a limited timeline, and so on “many occasions”, the authorities took the individuals’ declarations “in good faith”.

"However, as stewards of public funds we do have the duty to audit," she said. Most of the applications were legitimate, and only a handful were erroneous. 

"They may have been mistaken in their own understanding of their circumstances. It is sometimes possible that person did not quite know what he was earning."

READ: 4 arrested for suspected fraudulent applications for self-employed workers under COVID-19 relief scheme

Mrs Teo also said that the Government was aware of scams inviting individuals who were ineligible for SIRS to apply, and these cases have been referred to the police. 

The Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh asked how many of such cases there were.

Mrs Teo said she did not have the figures on hand, and added that Mr Singh could file a separate parliamentary question for the data, but she cannot comment too much as these cases were under investigation. 

Source: CNA/rp


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