Two men who cheated the Workforce Development agency (WDA) out of nearly $20,000 by submitting false SkillsFuture claims pleaded guilty to their charges on Thursday (7 December).
The two are believed to be the first to be charged for defrauding the SkillsFuture scheme.
Tan Yu Sheng, 29, and Sim Chee Kiong, 41, both Singaporean, were convicted on seven and six charges respectively for conspiring with Eric Zheng Zhenwei, 35, the director of HR agency Biz HR, to cheat the WDA by submitting claims for courses that did not actually take place.
Zheng has not been dealt with yet by the courts.
Launched in January 2016, the SkillsFuture credit scheme awards Singapore citizens aged 25 and above with $500 that can be used to pay for approved skills courses.
Tan, Sim and Zheng abused the scheme by offering $200 to each trainee who signed up for their courses via their SkillsFuture accounts and further enticing them by telling them that attendance for the course was optional. The trainees would receive their payoffs when the WDA disbursed the SkillsFuture credits to Biz HR.
According to the prosecution, Zheng was the scam’s mastermind. He would prepare the relevant documents with the trainees and then submit Biz HR’s invoices through the WDA’s SkillsFuture portal. The claims would state that the trainees would be attending a course conducted by Biz HR on a specific date.
Tan and Sim, who referred a total of 162 trainees to sign up with Biz HR, would each receive $50 for each trainee referral. At the time of the offences, Biz HR was a training provider that had six courses offered under the SkillsFuture scheme.
According to the prosecution, Zheng was the scam’s mastermind.
He would prepare the relevant documents with the trainees and then submit Biz HR’s invoices through the WDA’s SkillsFuture portal. The claims would state that the trainees would be attending a course conducted by Biz HR on a specific date.
The three men would also obtain the trainees signature on attendance sheets before the course actually took place.
Under the SkillsFuture scheme, trainees are not supposed to receive money from their SkillsFuture funds and are supposed to cancel their claims if they fail to attend the courses.
Between 1 January and 2 April last year, 380 trainees were recruited to submit claims to WDA. Out of these, 293 were approved and the WDA disbursed $144,840 to Biz HR.
On 29 March last year, the WDA conducted a surprise audit on Biz HR’s records and Zheng provided the agency with course registration forms and sham attendance records of all trainees who had allegedly attended Biz HR’s courses.
The WDA then conducted interviews with some of the trainees, one of whom confessed to the sham. The total monetary loss incurred by the WDA from Tan and Sim’s offences is $19,780. Sim and Tan have since made a restitution of $10,730.
Since then, the administration of the SkillsFuture Scheme has been handed over to a new statutory board, SkillsFuture Singapore.
Sim and Tan are expected to be sentenced on 19 December.
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