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Immediate action taken to recover wrongly disbursed housing grants

Immediate action taken to recover wrongly disbursed housing grants

In its audit of government accounts for the year 2020/2021, the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) revealed that housing grants amounting to $405,000 had been given to ineligible applicants.

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has taken immediate action to recover the housing grants wrongly disbursed to 12 ineligible applicants, reported Channel News Asia (CNA) citing National Development Minister Desmond Lee.

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

Lee shared that the verification process is expected to be completed “by or before the year-end”.

He made the statement in response to Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim’s (WP-Aljunied) question on the lapses noted by AGO in its July report.

In its audit of government accounts for the year 2020/2021, AGO revealed that housing grants amounting to $405,000 had been given to ineligible applicants.

This was discovered following checks on 22,627 resale HDB applications which obtained either the Singles Grant or Family Grant between 1 April 2018 and 30 September 2020.

“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,” Lee said in Parliament on Monday (13 September) as quoted by CNA.

Further investigations showed that the grants were wrongly disbursed to 12 applicants who had failed to declare material information to HDB such as their private property ownership and actual income.

The minister said the omission was not detected during verification checks.

Lim asked whether there were cases in which the suppression of information was not deliberate or may have come from a misunderstanding of the eligibility criteria or information needed to be provided.

To this, Lee said the authorities will look at the circumstances and facts of 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.”

Aside from taking action to recover the grants, process improvements and automated eligibility check processes will also be implemented by the HDB.

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

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

For private property ownership, HDB will verify documents like Transfer Instrument, the Notice of Transfer and the Sale and Purchase Agreement.

Lee noted that the verification process is often complex, particularly when flat buyers and their occupiers own multiple properties or have multiple sources of income, both local and overseas.

He explained that the automation of checks and process improvements will enable HDB to more accurately and efficiently assess the applicants’ eligibility even if they fail to declare material information.

 

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Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this story, email: victorkang@propertyguru.com.sg

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