'Hard slap of the law' for those who abuse relief fund
Government looking into alleged fraudulent claims under fund meant for those in dire need
The authorities are looking into alleged cases of fraudulent claims under the Temporary Relief Fund (TRF), and intend to "come down quite hard" on those who abuse the system, Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said yesterday.
Speaking to reporters in a video conference, Mr Shanmugam said the authorities are looking into a couple of cases of fraudulent claims, and the Government is taking this seriously.
In one of the cases, a 41-year-old Singaporean man is being investigated after he posted online claiming that he was able to obtain the TRF without any documents and that the system made it "so simple to cheat".
The police on Sunday also said they are aware of advertisements on social media purportedly selling forged payslips for the purpose of making fraudulent TRF claims.
The TRF was announced during the Resilience Budget last month for those who have been financially affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Under the TRF, lower to middle income Singaporeans and permanent residents who have lost their jobs or income will be able to apply for a one-time cash assistance of $500.
More than 100,000 Singaporeans have applied for the fund relief.
Mr Shanmugam said the process for TRF was intended to be fast and effective so those who need it can get the assistance they need quickly.
He said: "It requires the applicants to be honest as well, because if we get people who are not honest, then the requirements for checking will grow and a lot of honest people who are applying - all the people who are out of a job who need immediate cash - will then get affected.
"So I've told the police: investigate, and this is cheating. It carries a heavy jail sentence. I think we have to send the message."
But Mr Shanmugam emphasised that most of the applicants apply on a legitimate basis, with only a small minority trying to abuse the system.
"So we're going after a small number who are taking advantage, because if we don't, it will encourage others to try (to abuse the system)," he added.
Last Tuesday, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee posted on Facebook that many people have alerted him about attempts to abuse the system.
Following his post, some people came back and returned the money, saying they did not need it, said Mr Shanmugam.
He said it is unlikely that any action will be taken against these people, even though they have technically committed an offence.
Yesterday, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Home Affairs and Heath Amrin Amin echoed on Facebook that the authorities will spare no effort to take to task people who abuse the TRF meant to support Singaporeans in dire need during this crisis.
He said: "If true, I'm sad and disappointed that in such a serious crisis, dishonesty and opportunism rears its ugly head. They spoil it for the overwhelming majority who plays by the rules and wants support to reach those who need it most at this critical period.
"The hard slap of the law must be felt on such ugly few."