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57 reports of fraud or abuse linked to Covid-19 grants, with 42 arrested

57 reports of fraud or abuse linked to Covid-19 grants, with 42 arrested

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 12 Jan 2022
Author: Shermaine Ang

From March 2020 to last month, the police received 57 reports involving the abuse of or fraudulent applications for Covid-19 government grants and payouts amounting to some $1.7 million.

From March 2020 to last month, the police received 57 reports involving the abuse of or fraudulent applications for Covid-19 government grants and payouts amounting to some $1.7 million.

However, the amount disbursed was lower as agencies had managed to detect the fraud early.

To date, 42 people have been arrested for their suspected involvement in such fraud, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam in a written reply to a parliamentary question yesterday.

Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) had asked for data on fraud cases involving Covid-19 government grants, and about measures to address it.

Mr Shanmugam said investigations into 17 of the cases reported have been concluded, and they involved government funds totalling around $68,000. About $31,000 was disbursed, and $7,000 has been recovered.

The other cases are still being investigated, or are pending the Attorney-General's Chambers' advice or completion of court proceedings, he said.

Eight of those arrested have been convicted of cheating or forgery offences, added Mr Shanmugam.

Addressing Mr Pillai's question on whether the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) would set up a separate agency to investigate these cases, he said: "This is not necessary. Within the Commercial Affairs Department, there is a team called the Public Institutional Fraud Division that investigates fraud in the public sector, including the abuse or fraudulent application of government grants such as the Covid-19 grants."

In response to the question of whether there should be a whistle-blower channel to uncover more of such cases, Mr Shanmugam said it is not necessary for the MHA to provide one, as there are existing channels which the public is familiar with.

Those with information regarding the abuse of or fraudulent application for Covid-19 grants can submit information online via the police's I-Witness e-service or make a police report, he said.

Some of the agencies administering grants have also set up channels to obtain information from the public on abuse or malpractices, he added.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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