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Thread: SSO officer charged for misappropriating funds meant for financial assistance

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    Default SSO officer charged for misappropriating funds meant for financial assistance


    SSO officer charged for misappropriating funds meant for financial assistance


    Police have charged a Social Service Office (SSO) officer for misappropriating funds meant to help ComCare beneficiaries.



    Published Aug 3, 2016, 11:28 am SGT
    Lee Min Kok

    SINGAPORE - Police have charged a Social Service Office (SSO) officer for misappropriating funds meant to help ComCare beneficiaries.

    In a press release on Wednesday (Aug 3), the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said Chia Kwang Hwee, 33, faces charges under the Penal Code, the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act and the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.

    According to MSF, it was alerted by a beneficiary on Aug 14, 2014, that he had not received his financial assistance payments.

    The ministry subsequently uncovered information that indicated Chia, who worked at the SSO at Geylang Serai, could have misappropriated the funds.

    As a team leader, Chia's job scope included assessing applications for financial assistance and putting them up to his supervisor for approval, approving assistance for cases handled by other officers in his team, and case-managing families with multiple needs.

    The SSO's management detected suspicious social assistance transactions involving Chia, where the Giro payments for 26 clients were disbursed into two bank accounts. It was later found that a total of 42 clients had been affected.

    A police report against Chia for alleged fraud was filed by MSF the next day, and Chia was arrested on Aug 18.

    He was suspended from his duties on Aug 19, with MSF contacting all affected clients to ensure that the assistance they required had been met.

    The ministry's internal auditor also conducted checks on all the SSO's payment records to confirm that there were no other similar occurrences.

    Following the incident, MSF appointed an Independent Review Panel consisting of senior officials from other government agencies on Sept 15, 2014, to look into circumstances surrounding Chia's alleged misappropriation.

    After reviewing several areas in which the SSO at Geylang Serai and MSF operated in, the panel then submitted its recommendations, which the MSF implemented.

    These include:

    Strengthening the administration of access to our IT system;
    Including additional checks to ensure payments to clients; and
    Allocating cases such that no officer will be allowed to take charge of a particular client for more than two consecutive years.

    The network of 24 social service offices (SSOs) was rolled out from July 2013 and completed in December 2015. These offices administer the national ComCare financial aid scheme.

    Previously,the five Community Development Councils (CDC) administered ComCare. Along with family service centres, the SSOs put help within 2km of where 95 per cent of needy residents live or work.

    Commenting on the case in a Facebook post on Wednesday morning, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said that while the ministry's priority was to ensure Singaporeans and families in need continue to receive the appropriate help, it also needed to ensure accountability.

    "Control measures can only go so far. Too many and it becomes onerous and less agile, too few and you run the risks of abuse. It is ultimately our values that must guide us in all our actions to serve Singapore and Singaporeans with integrity and compassion," he wrote.

    "I am proud that many of our officers serve with passion and dedication. But the Ministry will not condone or tolerate any conduct that undermines the integrity of our social assistance system and interest of our beneficiaries."




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    Default Re: SSO officer charged for misappropriating funds meant for financial assistance



    Jail for social service worker who bought luxury goods after stealing $343,000 meant for ComCare beneficiaries



    Chia was sentenced to five years and four months' jail after the social service worker pocketed more than $340,000 from the Community Care Endowment Fund.PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

    Published Dec 22, 2016, 2:44 pm SGT
    Amir Hussain

    SINGAPORE - While needy families were deprived of money meant for them, Chia Kwang Hwee, 33, splurged on luxuries, including spending more than $5,000 on goods from Louis Vuitton boutiques.

    For nearly three years, the social service worker pocketed more than $340,000 from the Community Care Endowment Fund (ComCare). He was entrusted with the cash to help the less fortunate.

    Chia was generous with himself and his relatives, spending $110,000 on expensive spa and hair salon packages, pricey meals, holidays and branded goods.

    He also used about $130,000 to settle debts owed by him and his relatives, and gave family members about $100,000 in cash as gifts.

    On Thursday (Dec 22), Chia was sentenced to five years and four months' jail for his crimes.

    He had earlier pleaded guilty to 19 charges - two each for criminal breach of trust as a public servant and transferring criminal proceeds, and 15 for accessing a computer to commit criminal breach of trust.

    Taxi driver Koh Pit Ann, 62, pleaded guilty to one charge of theft and one of causing hurt.

    Another 107 similar counts were taken into account in sentencing as part of his plea bargain.

    The $343,780 that Chia pilfered from November 2011 to August 2014 was meant for 42 low-income and needy individuals and families.

    Between June 2009 and June 2013, Chia was a manager at the South East Community Development Council (South East CDC) and from July 2013, a manager at the Social Service Office (SSO) in Geylang Serai. At both workplaces, he was responsible for disbursing ComCare monies.

    Between Jan 1, 2012, and Dec 31, 2013, Chia collected about 300 cheques for $197,060, issued by South East CDC or Geylang Serai SSO on behalf of beneficiaries.

    Instead of handing them to the beneficiaries, he encashed the cheques and deposited the money into his bank account.

    The cheques had been made out to "cash" as the beneficiaries who were supposed to receive them did not have bank accounts.

    In November 2012, while at South East CDC, Chia also took on the role of team leader and was granted access rights to a computer system used to administer ComCare funds to beneficiaries.

    He also had system administrator rights and could reset the passwords of other account users.

    Between December 2013 and August 2014, while at Geylang Serai SSO, Chia entered his bank account details into the system instead of the beneficiaries'.

    He also misused his administrator rights to reset the passwords of 15 social service officers' accounts, and then used his colleagues' accounts to approve and transfer $67,100 in beneficiaries' payouts into his own account.

    In a press statement sent out immediately after Chia was charged on Aug 3 this year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development said it was contacted by a beneficiary who said he had not been getting his payouts.

    Chia was suspended from his duties on Aug 19, 2014, after his crimes were discovered. Police seized 21 branded items worth nearly $30,000 from his home. He had bought them with criminal proceeds.

    In a Facebook post put up shortly after Chia was charged, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said police investigated the matter with the ministry's full cooperation.

    "MSF's priority is to ensure that Singaporeans and families in need continue to receive appropriate help in a responsive manner. However, we also need to ensure accountability and have thus thoroughly reviewed and strengthened our controls at the SSOs."

    The ministry's internal auditor checked all the offices' payment records to confirm that there were no other similar cases.

    An independent review panel, consisting of senior officials from other government agencies, also probed the circumstances surrounding Chia's alleged misappropriation.

    The MSF said it has implemented the panel's recommendations, which include strengthening access to IT systems and having more checks to ensure that payouts have been made.
    HOW CHIA SPENT THE MONEY

    Air tickets

    $3,647: Cathay Pacific Airways

    $1,992: China Eastern Airlines

    $1,418: SilkAir

    $2,480: Thai Airways

    Boutiques

    $3,701: Club 21

    $1,930: Mulberry

    $5,465: Louis Vuitton

    $3,500: Francis Cheong boutique

    $1,500: Lane Crawford

    $1,263: Ssense.com

    $1,148: Christian Dior

    Hotels

    $1,000: Sheraton Towers

    $2,047: W Hong Kong

    Dining

    $2,588: Chao Gang Cun Fine Dining

    Grooming

    $1,252: Jean Yip



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