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The standard of service from the civil/government services


Alfrescian (Inf)

Auditor-General flags lapses in govt agencies, including transfer of official funds to personal bank accounts​


In its annual audit of government accounts, AGO cited instances of giving excessive IT access rights and over-disbursing support grants. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Goh Yan Han
Political Correspondent

July 19, 2023

SINGAPORE - The People’s Association, Public Service Division, Ministry of Communications and Information and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore were among the government agencies flagged for lapses and weaknesses in a report released on Wednesday.
In its annual audit of government accounts, the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) cited instances of awarding contracts to debarred contractors, co-mingling official funds with staff’s personal funds, giving excessive IT access rights, and over-disbursing support grants.
It also highlighted possible irregularities in the records provided to AGO by the State Courts and Singapore Food Agency (SFA).
Both agencies have lodged police reports following AGO’s audit observations.
For the State Courts, there were possible irregularities in the quotations provided for 110 out of 295 items, whose rates were not listed in the contract, for a development project.
AGO had concerns over the authenticity of the quotations provided and whether value for money had been obtained for the items.
For SFA, there were possible irregularities in some quotations for ad-hoc works at facilities it managed, resulting in concerns over authenticity of the quotations.

The AGO report was submitted to the President on July 4, and presented to Parliament on Tuesday.

People’s Association (PA)​

The AGO found that three grassroots organisations (GROs) had awarded contracts to or renewed them with two debarred contractors during their debarment period.
The GROs had either not checked the contractors’ debarment status, or awarded the contracts despite knowing.

Contractors may be debarred from taking on public sector projects for reasons such as withdrawing tenders before they are awarded, poor performance reports, or violation of safety regulations or requirements.
PA had paid about $410,000 to the two contractors for providing lift maintenance and security services.
The report said PA acknowledged the lapses and informed AGO that it would review its guidelines and update its procurement checklist to check on debarment status during bid evaluation and contract renewal.
AGO also test-checked 11 welfare assistance schemes managed by five GROs between April 1, 2019 and May 31, 2022.
It found that the money management practices for these schemes at two GROs were “inappropriate and risky”.

One GRO had transferred $707,000 from its bank account to the personal bank accounts of two staff members in seven instances, in sums ranging from $10,000 to $200,000. This was to enable them to withdraw monies for cash disbursements to welfare assistance recipients at festive events.
The other GRO transferred $334,500 to a staff member’s personal bank account for the person to reimburse hawkers and merchants under a voucher assistance scheme.
This was done in 46 instances between July 2020 and November 2021, with transfer amounts ranging from $500 to $21,200.
According to PA, these practices were implemented due to operational needs. AGO said that for proper accountability, monies of GROs should not be co-mingled with staff’s personal monies, and such practices were inappropriate.
While the checks did not find evidence of monies being lost or misappropriated in those two cases, such practices pose significant risk of loss or misappropriation, said AGO.
Both GROs have since stopped these practices.
PA said it would conduct briefings and training on managing monies in welfare assistance schemes, and implement digital payments for disbursements to reduce cash handling.
It would also pilot having selected GROs start using the Government’s electronic voucher system.
AGO also found in its checks into eight GROs, that two did not enter into formal agreements with external service partners, when implementing community projects for residents that had started many years ago.
The report also flagged that PA had either not deactivated, or deactivated late, more than 3,000 user accounts in its volunteer management system, Grassroots E-Mart System and Grassroots Financial Accounting System – after users had left PA, or stepped down from their GRO appointments.
MOF has begun recovery of GST Voucher U-Save rebates given to ineligible households
SSG acknowledges gaps in levy collection, is updating its IT system: Gan Siow Huang
Of these, 16 user accounts had logged into the volunteer management system and accounting system after their last day of service, and one of them had created six payment transactions worth $624.85 after their last day.
PA said the staff member returned his laptop six days after his last day of service, deviating from PA’s procedures. He had used the laptop and accessed his account in those six days to clear work, and there was no ill intention to misuse access into the system.
AGO also found significant lapses in the evaluation and award of two maintenance services tenders, and one cleaning services tender.
In a statement on Wednesday, PA said it is committed to resolving and improving its governance, procurement and oversight processes.
It has set up a review committee to look at the latest AGO findings together with existing and planned remedies, and will recommend to its board any further interventions.
Both the AGO report and PA statement did not specify the constituencies where the lapses occurred. The Straits Times has contacted PA for more information.

Public Service Division (PSD)​

An IT general controls audit was conducted for the PSD’s human resource and payroll system, which serves over 186,000 users across the Government.
AGO said it found weaknesses which may compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the system and data residing in the system.
These included weak controls over the most privileged operating system and database accounts, and weaknesses in the review of accounts and administrators’ accounts in the system.
Excessive access rights were given to IT vendor staff, which would allow them to modify or delete data files.
Excessive access rights were also granted to vendor staff, to the keys used for encryption or decryption of data files.

Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI)​

In 2022, the AGO reported lapses in MCI’s administration of the Whole-of-Government Period Contract and Framework Agreement (WOG PCFA).
After the first WOG PCFA expired, MCI established a second one in April 2022.
AGO’s review of the tender recommendation report for the second agreement found that out of 108 tenderers appointed to a panel, MCI had appointed five that did not meet the evaluation criteria.
MCI informed AGO that it viewed this as a serious lapse, and that all five vendors had since been removed from the panel.
MCI has also set up a dedicated procurement team.

Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS)​

The CAAS had administered several grants to support the aviation industry amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Between Sept 1, 2020 and March 31, 2022, $114.52 million was disbursed for one of the schemes.
AGO found over-disbursements amounting to $1 million, indicating that CAAS’ checks and controls were inadequate in ensuring grants disbursed were valid, accurate and in compliance with grant terms and conditions.
These over-disbursements were due to erroneous claims made by companies which had included ineligible employees who did not meet criteria such as citizenship or having a valid professional licence during the period of claim.
The report also said that for the same grant, certain eligibility criteria were either stated inaccurately or not stated in the grant agreements.
CAAS said each company receiving the grants had been required to appoint an external auditor, who did not flag these errors.
The authority said it would tighten its controls and processes for future grant disbursements and follow up to recover the over-disbursed amounts.


"The two have been suspended, and will have to undergo re-training and re-certification before they can resume their duties, said Mr Neo at a media briefing."

If both were in the private sector, both would have been sacked.
Just two!!?? Dot thinks all the employees have to undergo re-training and re-certification.

Two SMRT staff suspended after human error worsened MRT disruption on Oct 14
The two SMRT staff had misread equipment at the substation and thought that the power fault in Tuas had been isolated.

The two SMRT staff had misread equipment at the substation and thought that the power fault in Tuas had been isolated.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Clement Yong

    OCT 28, 2020, 10:49 PM SGT

SINGAPORE - When a power fault first struck the North-South and East-West lines on Oct 14, SMRT's first focus was to avoid having to evacuate passengers on stalled trains, said its chief executive Neo Kian Hong on Wednesday (Oct 28).

That was why the operator decided to draw power from an alternative substation in Buona Vista, in a bid to restore service along the affected stations more quickly.

But two of its employees - a supervisor and a staff member - misread equipment at the substation and thought that the power fault in Tuas had been isolated when it had not.

The failure to isolate the fault before drawing power caused a voltage dip at the substation, which powers the Circle Line (CCL). This caused a power trip and affected service on the CCL.

The two have been suspended, and will have to undergo re-training and re-certification before they can resume their duties, said Mr Neo at a media briefing.

He also said that SMRT took "a lot of safety precautions" when it decided that it had to evacuate passengers from the stalled trains, to maintain the safety and well-being of commuters on board.

These included suspending detrainment for one of the trains near Bukit Batok at 8.44pm due to rain and lightning risk.

The train, which was the last to be cleared of passengers, was emptied only at 9.43pm, two hours and 45 minutes after the fault began.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Wednesday said passengers had to be detrained from 15 stalled trains - three on the Circle Line and 12 on the North-South and East-West lines.

Commuters getting out of the train onto the tracks near Kranji station

Detrainment was completed within 20 minutes on the Circle Line, but took more than an hour for those on the North-South and East-West lines.

In a report released on Wednesday, the LTA said it had received feedback that more updates should be provided on the situation leading up to the detrainment, "for better awareness and preparedness".

SMRT will continue to improve its communications during disruptions, and arrange for its staff to provide commuters in stalled trains with more updates, the LTA said.

It noted that regular bus services plying the affected stations were made free immediately, and 120 shuttle buses were mobilised to ferry commuters.

"There were periods of crowd congestion at the bus points of the affected stations initially and later at the stations where trains turned around," the LTA said.

Crowds waiting to board buses at Queenstown MRT station, after a power fault led to the suspension of train services, on Oct 14, 2020.

Investigations conducted later that night found that power cables located around 500m from Tuas Link station along the Tuas West Extension were burnt through.

There were short circuits between three cables on the upper layer of the two-layer power cable network, which led to a high fault current burning through the cables.

The burnt section of cable that led to the massive disruption on Oct 14, 2020. PHOTO: LTA

In addition, a trip coil - a component of a nearby circuit breaker which should have kicked in to isolate the fault - was found to have melted. This caused the circuit breaker to fail.

The LTA said repair works on the faulty power cables between Tuas Link and Tuas West Road stations were completed over two nights, on Oct 16 and 17.

The faulty trip coil was replaced on the night of the incident itself.

A trip coil that melted caused the circuit breaker to fail, leading to the disruption on Oct 14, 2020. PHOTO LTA

SMRT checked all trip coils along the Tuas West Extension as a precaution, and found two other trip coils that "exhibited inconsistent performance that could result in a similar failure".

French firm Alstom - which supplied the power system - is conducting forensic investigations on the faulty trip coils, the LTA said.

The report also revealed that the Tuas West Extension had experienced similar cable faults since it began operations in May 2017.

Two cable faults occurred in 2018, and two more occurred this year, in January and June.

The faults all occurred at the upper layer of the cables, along different stretches along the MRT extension line. Train services were not affected because the circuit breakers kicked in to isolate the faulty cables, the LTA said.

After the fault in June, Alstom had agreed to replace all upper layer power cables with cables that have tougher insulation. The replacement was scheduled to start this month.

It had also agreed to a 20-year warranty extension for the lower layer cables.

Following the Oct 14 disruption, Alstom also agreed to replace all the lower layer cables. In all, it will replace about 150km of cables along the Tuas West Extension by the end of next year, at its own cost.
Use wrong cable tie again??


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Too long a wait for SNEC appointment for subsidised patients​

AUG 12, 2023, 5:00 AM SGT

Recently, I called up the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) to make appointments for my elderly parents to have their eyes checked.
My mum has cataracts and suffers from blurred vision, and my dad’s lower eyelid has been swollen for years. They were examined by a doctor at a polyclinic and were referred to the SNEC for further review and treatment.
I was shocked when I was informed by the SNEC that the next available appointment date as a subsidised patient is in September 2024, which is more than a year away. I was told that the long waiting time was due to a shortage of doctors.
The SNEC also said that if I opted for the non-subsidised route, the waiting time is shorter and the earliest date available is in October this year. But if I opted for no subsidy, it would have to be “non-subsidised all the way” and my parents would not be able to switch back to being subsidised patients.
As the waiting time for appointments for subsidised patients is way too long, I had no choice but to go for the non-subsidised route for my parents to get them an appointment as soon as possible.
Such inflexibility has financial implications, as the cost of cataract surgery without the appropriate subsidy is much higher.
I urge the Government to relook the healthcare scheme and subsidies, especially for the elderly, who may not be able to wait long to seek appropriate medical care.

Edwin Goh


Alfrescian (Inf)

SKH patient buys Panadol via foodpanda after long wait; hospital says it prioritises emergency cases​


TikTok user Jombadok, in a video posted last week, claims that he waited for his painkillers for almost two hours before he decided to order them via foodpanda. PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM TIKTOK

Elaine Lee

Sep 19, 2023

SINGAPORE – Sengkang General Hospital (SKH) says it prioritises patients in emergency cases over the less serious ones, after an inpatient complained on TikTok that he had to buy painkillers via foodpanda after waiting for almost two hours at the hospital for the medicine.
In a Facebook post on Monday, SKH said it was aware of a TikTok video circulating online of a patient ordering Panadol via the food delivery app as a result “of an alleged lack of promptness by the hospital in addressing his needs”.
Addressing the allegation, SKH said it would like to assure the public that the patient’s care team had “rendered the appropriate care” based on his condition.
“SKH is committed to attending to every patient in a timely manner,” it added. “Patients with less acute conditions may sometimes experience longer waiting times compared with those who are being treated for serious urgent and life-threatening emergencies.”
TikTok user Jombadok, in a video posted last week, claims that he waited for his painkillers for almost two hours before he decided to order them via foodpanda. The reason for his hospitalisation is not explained.
“Can you imagine... (I’m) asking for Panadol and I cannot get the medicine from a first-world hospital... it is really ridiculous,” he says in the video.
Filming himself collecting his painkillers from a foodpanda delivery rider at the hospital lobby, he tells the rider, who appears surprised, about his situation. Jombadok does not say how long it took for his delivery to arrive.

He adds that it is his first time warded at SKH and he will be discharging himself from the hospital against medical advice the next day because he is unable to get medication from the hospital.
“No point. I might as well (stay) at home. I have my painkillers at home... (the hospital) is a let-down,” he says in the video.
The Straits Times has reached out to Jombadok and SKH for more information.

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Alfrescian (Inf)

Escalator at MRT station out of service since March​

Sep 22, 2023

While adjustments in bus and train fares are necessary, they should be aligned with service quality too (Bus, train fares to rise by up to 11 cents for adults; new $96 concession pass for low-wage workers, Sept 19).

An escalator at Lorong Chuan MRT station has been out of service since March and is expected to remain so until December 2023, as indicated by signs at the station.

This prolonged unavailability has inconvenienced commuters. While escalator repairs may not be as critical as maintaining train services, a nine-month repair timeframe seems excessive. Is this extended closure a cost-saving measure, and is it deemed acceptable by the operator and regulator?

Josephine Lim Teo Hwee


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Abandoned bicycle still there despite reporting it many times​

SEP 5, 2023

Next to a bus stop in Yio Chu Kang Road is an abandoned bicycle that has been there for months. One wheel is missing, it is slowly rusting away and weeds have grown over it.
I have reported it many times via the OneService and LifeSG apps after noticing that it had been abandoned for months. A while after I first reported it on June 18, a notice was placed on the bicycle requiring the owner to remove it by a certain date, or it would be removed by the authorities.
It has been almost two months since the deadline passed, and the bicycle is still there.
I wonder if this case is similar to that of the fishball stick discarded on a walkway that was not removed as it was unclear which agency was responsible, and which led to the formation of the Municipal Services Office (MSO).
Is the bicycle still there because it is not clear which agency is responsible for clearing it? How difficult is it for any agency to remove a bicycle?
And now that the MSO exists, why are lapses like this still occurring?

Adam Reutens-Tan


Alfrescian (Inf)

Jail for ex-SBS Transit bus driver over accident that caused woman to have leg partially amputated​


Tan Phuay Khoo intends to appeal against his conviction and sentence, and was offered a bail of $15,000 on Tuesday. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Shaffiq Alkhatib
Court Correspondent

Oct 3, 2023

SINGAPORE – A former SBS Transit driver was sentenced to seven months’ jail on Tuesday after a bus he was driving in 2019 struck a female pedestrian, resulting in her having part of her left leg amputated.
Tan Phuay Khoo, 62, who was earlier convicted of one count of causing grievous hurt to the woman by driving in an inconsiderate manner, was also disqualified from holding or obtaining all classes of driving licences for five years from his date of release.
He intends to appeal against his conviction and sentence, and was offered bail of $15,000 on Tuesday.
On Jan 19, 2019, Tan was driving a bus at around noon when he reached the junction of Pasir Ris Drive 1 and Pasir Ris Drive 2.
At the same time, the victim was crossing Pasir Ris Drive 1 as the traffic light was in her favour.
Tan made a discretionary right turn after waiting for a van to pass, and the bus struck the woman.
She was rushed to Changi General Hospital with injuries including fractures to both legs and degloving injuries in her left leg.

A body part is said to be degloved when top layers of skin and tissue are ripped from the underlying muscle or bone.
The woman then had to have part of her left leg amputated.
She had testified during the trial that she was rendered unable to perform daily activities such as climbing stairs without assistance.
On Sept 25, Deputy Public Prosecutor R. Arvindren told District Judge Kok Shu-En that the victim was in her 30s at the time, and her life had been permanently affected.
Stressing that the victim was walking at a normal pace before the accident occurred, the DPP added: “The accused was operating a heavy vehicle and the turn was within a residential zone.
“He had proceeded to make the turn even though the pedestrian green light was in the pedestrian’s favour.”
During the trial, Tan said that he did not notice the victim at all before the collision.

The prosecutor had earlier said in his submissions: “If the accused is insisting that... obstructions made things difficult for him to have spotted the victim, he simply should have stopped and checked.”
In September, an SBS Transit spokesperson told The Straits Times : “Mr Tan is no longer in our employ. We have dismissed him.”
If convicted of causing grievous hurt to another person by driving in an inconsiderate manner, an offender can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Why are sales of stamp booklets suspended till after price hike?​

SEP 25, 2023

I refer to the article “SingPost to hike rate for standard regular mail from Oct 9 to meet rising costs” (Sept 19).
After the price hike was announced, I went to the post office to buy some first local stamps, which are valued at the prevailing postage rates, but was informed at the counter that SingPost had suspended sales of such stamp booklets until the new rates take effect.
First local stamps purchased from self-service machines came printed with “31c” instead of the usual “1st Local”, meaning they cannot be used after the price hike without a 20-cent postage fee top-up.
These two measures effectively prevent customers from stocking up on such stamps before the price hike. Is this really necessary?
As mail volume has fallen, there is only so much a person or company can stockpile.
These moves seem to show that SingPost cares more about its bottom line than the interests of its customers.

Gregory Lou Wei Ming


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Overcharged on bus fares due to card reader errors​

Oct 19, 2023

I refer to the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) reply highlighting some of the benefits of using the SimplyGo app (View SimplyGo transactions in app and at ticketing machines, Oct 10).
I would like to ask LTA to look at one pain point for commuters – the overcharging of bus fares due to errors involving card readers on buses. I first wrote about this issue in the Forum page in 2013, and, even after a decade, this is still happening.
Often, the card reader does not display the actual stop, but typically one stop before it, and this information is captured when commuters tap their cards as they board the bus.
Until the error is rectified, perhaps after a commuter brings it to the bus captain’s attention, commuters are overcharged without their realising it, unless they check the SimplyGo app later.
This happened to me twice in August and again twice in September.
For the incidents in August, I was able to file my refund claims easily through the SimplyGo app.
For the ones in September, because the app was undergoing maintenance, I had to call TransitLink for a customer service officer to file the claims on my behalf. One of the officers I spoke to made an error, so I had to call again to get the matter resolved. All this was a lot of trouble, through no fault of mine.

LTA should make sure corrective actions are taken to prevent such incidents.

Raju M. Iyer


Alfrescian (Inf)

PayLah! down for some users, less than a week after DBS banking services were disrupted​


DBS said that access to PayLah! was intermittent. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Fatimah Mujibah

Oct 20, 2023

SINGAPORE – Following an outage that lasted more than 12 hours over the weekend, DBS Bank faced another hiccup on Friday morning with customers unable to access online service PayLah!.
In a Facebook post at around 10am, DBS said that access to PayLah! was intermittent. The bank advised its customers to use DBS digibank Scan and Pay, or DBS/POSB debit or credit cards for their payments.
The bank said that those who are able to access PayLah! and are eligible for the DBS 5 Million Hawker Meals cashback will receive their rebate by Friday.
The cashback is an initiative by DBS introduced in February to support hawkers. The $3 discount is available every Friday for the first 100,000 users on their hawker meals islandwide.
“We are resolving the issue. We apologise for the inconvenience caused and seek your understanding,” DBS said.
The Straits Times understands that ATM machines are unaffected.
The Downdetector website, which tracks service disruptions, saw an increase in complaints about DBS at 7.45am.

At about 9am, there were about 397 reports from DBS customers on the website.
A Facebook user named Jerome Fs commented: “Can’t even log in (using) the app. People are waiting for me to make payment while queuing. You know how embarrassing it is? How can we ‘go cashless’ when our technology cannot keep it up?”
Several users also commented on the frequent issues faced by DBS and expressed their disappointment.
The disruption to PayLah! comes after physical ATMs, website and cards were down last Saturday afternoon. All of its banking services resumed on Sunday morning.
DBS said its investigations showed that the service disruption was caused by an issue at a data centre, which is also used by other organisations.
ST has contacted DBS for comment.

Byebye Penis

several friends around me had joined civil service, stat boards and GLC these two years.

High pays, more WFH, more benefits and leaves. more relaxed, don't need to work like crazy.

Times have changed, more work-life-balance in civil service now.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Have scorecard of improvements civil service has made​

Oct 24, 2023

The exhortations by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and the leadership of the public service on the need to serve the population better are not new – there having been similar ones in the past (Public servants must be willing to reimagine govt policies: DPM Heng, Oct 20).
Apart from the need for civil servants to have a good sense of the ground, Mr Heng suggested the need for empathy and a willingness to do things differently.
Civil service head Leo Yip said the civil service must be willing to evolve and stressed the need to “relentlessly improve and transform the way it works”.
Examples were given of how the service has made life better, but I feel that much remains to be done at the grassroots level.
For a start, the service should respond more consistently to public complaints published in the press. Letters are at times ignored. Most of the time, the responses take the template reply of thanking the writer, followed by a reiteration of current policies, why they are good, and ending with an invitation to visit their website for more information. In other words, members of the public are at times given short shrift.
If the civil service is serious about its commitment to serving the public with empathy and wants to sustain and renew trust with citizens, then it has to do better.
Having a scorecard of the improvements it has made over the years and sharing it with the public would be a good start.

Danny Chow


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Removal of parallel bus services sets back car-lite push​

Nov 21, 2023

I read with interest the decision to remove and amend bus services in the most recent route rationalisation exercise (Bus service 167 to cease from Dec 10, Nov 17). Bus route rationalisation exercises reduce or remove bus routes that are already served by new train lines.
However, in the face of the Government’s car-lite efforts, such a move is rather contradictory. One core tenet of a car-lite society is the ease of public transport use, and giving users choices of public transport services is key to achieving that.
This is also crucial in incidents when trains break down and delays occur. Users can cut over smoothly to existing parallel bus routes, rather than scramble and queue for bus bridging services.
Moreover, removal of bus routes will redirect more commuters to take short trips via other existing bus services just to get to the nearest MRT station. This will likely result in more people using these bus services, causing these buses to be sporadically full on routes in between MRT stations. Commuters who use the services to get to their destination rather than an MRT station may then not be able to board the buses.
Such scenarios frustrate existing commuters, and discourage existing car owners from giving up their cars to use public transport, setting back the Government’s car-lite efforts.
The route rationalisation exercise needs to be tweaked, or overhauled altogether, to reflect the Government’s car-life efforts.

Randy Ho


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Provide more bicycle bays at HDB void decks​

NOV 14, 2023

Many bicycle owners have been issued notices from the town councils for parking their bicycles indiscriminately.
There are not enough bicycle bays in HDB void decks as such bays can take a maximum of only 10 bicycles.
Bays are often stretched beyond their maximum capacity, with at least 20 bicycles in a row. This has become a very common sight in many void decks. It is not only unsightly but also poses a safety hazard.
Many HDB residents do not have enough space in their flats to store their bicycles, and putting them in common corridors is not a good option.
They have to resort to parking their bicycles indiscriminately along staircases or any common vacant area, often inconveniencing other residents.
As people are encouraged to exercise, many now have their own bicycles instead of renting them.
The authorities should provide more bicycle bays at void decks, similar to the two-tiered bays at some new estates and MRT stations, to alleviate the space constraints.

Tan Keong Boon


Alfrescian (Inf)

Forum: Unable to register at nearby polyclinic under Healthier SG​

NOV 15, 2023

I refer to the Forum letter “How do GPs’ fees factor under Healthier SG scheme?” (Nov 14).
I was invited to register for the Healthier SG programme recently. Polyclinics would be a logical choice for most residents because they are more affordable and also because residents like me do not have a family doctor we consult regularly.
To my surprise, Clementi Polyclinic in my housing estate was not available for registration but was blanked off as “full capacity”.
I am therefore forced to register with a nearby unfamiliar family clinic where the fees are likely to be higher.
Why is there a limit for registering with polyclinics under the Healthier SG programme as they are there mainly to serve the residents in the precinct?
It is more likely for family clinics, with their limited resources, to be unable to accept more registrants once their quota is filled.
I hope the Ministry of Health can look into this urgently.

Wan Chee Khoon


Alfrescian (Inf)

Urgent clean-up needed at Choa Chu Kang cemetery​

Nov 24, 2023
I am concerned and disappointed by the state of Choa Chu Kang Muslim cemetery, which is marred by litter.

Over the past year and a half, I have highlighted to the authorities the accumulation of empty water bottles, cans, plastic bags and other rubbish there.

I have also suggested ways to keep it clean, but nothing seems to have been done.

I urge the relevant authorities to clean up the cemetery, which deserves care and respect.

Nazneen Zafar


Alfrescian (Inf)

Rid void decks of abandoned bikes​

Nov 24, 2023

I refer to the letter “Provide more racks at HDB void decks” (Nov 14).

I disagree that more bicycle racks are needed. There is more than enough space if abandoned bicycles in the bicycle bays now – with flattened tyres, missing parts, rusty frames, and dust-covered – are removed.

The town councils should take strict action against owners of these abandoned bicycles, which take up more than half of the parking bays. The owners should not use the bicycle bays to store their unwanted bicycles.


Alfrescian (Inf)

No help from HDB service line​

Dec 1, 2023

I called the Housing Board’s service line regarding the spalling concrete problem in my flat.

Despite following the instructions provided by the HDB main line, which directed me to contact the service line, my attempts to connect have been disappointing and frustrating. I have made numerous calls on different days and at various times, hoping to speak with an operator but to no avail.

After being put on hold and listening to a recorded message three times, I get a message saying I’ve exceeded the allowed call duration and the call would be abruptly terminated. My experience makes me question whether anyone can receive any help from this service line.

Wendy Lim


Alfrescian (Inf)

No concerns detected during weekly check-ins with girl who was sexually abused for nearly 3 months: MSF​

The girl was taken in by a man after she was traumatised by her mother’s death and father’s sexual abuse. But the man sexually assaulted her almost every day for close to three months.
No concerns detected during weekly check-ins with girl who was sexually abused for nearly 3 months: MSF

Photo illustration of a child in distress. (File photo: CNA/Jeremy Long)

Michael Yong

04 Dec 2023

Warning: This story contains references to suicide.
SINGAPORE: Authorities did not detect “sexual abuse concerns” during weekly sessions with a girl who was sexually assaulted almost every day for about three months by a man who wanted to adopt her.
In response to queries from CNA, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said on Monday (Dec 4) that the girl did not “disclose the abuse to them” until she told a school teacher.
Last Tuesday, the 39-year-old man was sentenced to 10 years’ jail and nine strokes of the cane for his crimes.
He pleaded guilty to four counts of exploitative sexual penetration of a minor who is 16 or 17, with another nine charges taken into consideration.
The girl was under the care of MSF and in the process of being adopted when she moved in to stay with the man and his wife full-time.
She was sexually assaulted almost every day during her stay from September 2020 to November 2020, the court heard.
Questions were raised after the court case about why the abuse went undetected for nearly three months. The girl also started to engage in self-harm during the period of abuse.
The ministry told CNA that the girl had been receiving support from a team of professionals, which included psychologists and case workers from a treatment centre, a psychiatrist and a psychologist from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and a Child Protection Officer.
During her stay with the couple, check-ins and sessions were conducted every week on average by at least one of the professionals, where the girl's well-being, safety and progress were monitored.
The couple also had regular sessions with the professionals and were "observed to be capable of providing supportive care" for her.
"During this period, the professionals did not detect sexual abuse concerns, nor did the young person disclose the abuse to them until she told her school teacher in Nov 2020," said MSF.
"Although the young person had some signs of self-harm, that would not have indicated that she was being sexually abused, as due to her past trauma history, the young person had ongoing self-harm behaviour before she was under the care of the couple."


The girl, who is now 19 years old, was 13 when her mother took her own life in front of her in 2017.
She suffered from adjustment disorder with depressed mood after, but the girl’s father did not let her or her siblings mourn their mother’s death.
The girl was sexually abused by her father in January 2018, several months after her mother died. She overdosed on medication and was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health, where she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
She was removed from her father’s care about two months later and placed in the care of a family friend. The teenager stopped engaging in self-harm, but this resumed in June 2018 after the suicide of a close friend.
In September 2018, MSF placed her in a treatment centre aimed at helping girls who have suffered trauma or abuse.
The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, first met the girl that month when he ran a programme at the treatment centre. He was a manager at a company which conducts camps for children.
He and his wife later agreed to adopt the girl, and they were told of the girl’s traumatic past and her mental health issues.
In December 2019, the victim started home leave with the couple and stayed overnight at their home. She sometimes slept on the bed with the couple when she had trouble sleeping.
Between January 2020 and March 2020, her mental health deteriorated and she was moved back to the treatment centre. The couple visited her regularly as they did not want her to feel abandoned.
After the COVID-19 “circuit breaker” in April and May 2020, her home leave with the couple resumed – mostly for two to three days at a time – from June 2020 to August 2020.
The sexual abuse started in September that year, with the man asking her to remove her clothes to participate in an “activity” using a mirror before he molested her.
He also molested her on multiple occasions in the first half of that month.
Despite the abuse, she started extended home leave with the couple and began staying at their home full-time on Sep 15, 2020.
The man began sexually assaulting the girl on an almost daily basis. The girl would experience panic attacks during the assaults.
On Oct 4, 2020, the man and his wife were formally appointed “kith caregivers” by MSF while the adoption process was ongoing.
Kith caregivers are non-familial adults known to a child through family or community connections, and they are not registered as foster parents, MSF said.
Over the next few months, he continued to sexually assault the girl nearly every day until the middle of November. The crimes were only discovered after the girl told a teacher on Nov 30, 2020.
The girl is currently staying with her relatives. She is receiving support from a Family Service Centre social worker and a hospital psychologist, said MSF.


During her stay at the treatment centre, she had regular check-ins and therapy sessions with the team of professionals.
Before she started going over to stay at the couple’s home, there were “phased contacts” between the couple and her.
These ranged from supervised visits at the treatment centre, to outings, before progressing to home leave and full-time care.
“For this case, there were regular therapy sessions, check-ins and home visits by professionals both prior to and during the young person’s home leave, as well as during her stay with the couple daily from Sep 15, 2020, onwards,” said the ministry.
But the abuse was not detected by the professionals.
MSF said that child abuse is “often hard to detect, particularly when a caregiver actively hides it”.
“This case highlights how detection can be difficult even with close and constant support provided by professionals,” said the ministry.
“It also shows the critical role of having trusted individuals in one’s life. In this case, if not for the teacher whom the young person trusted and confided in, the abuse might have remained hidden much longer.”
When asked why the couple were allowed to take her in, MSF said the man and his wife had “no prior criminal record and adverse history”.
They were volunteers at the treatment centre where the girl was staying.
“No risk factors emerged during the assessment of the couple’s suitability as kith caregivers for the young person in question,” said MSF.
“Trained professionals assessed them as caring and capable of supporting her needs.”
The couple did not follow through with the adoption process, said MSF.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Man who sexually abused teen girl he wanted to adopt had no criminal record: MSF​



Wong Shiying

Dec 4, 2023

SINGAPORE – The man who sexually abused a teenage girl whom he wanted to adopt had no criminal record and adverse history, and professionals did not detect any abuse during regular check-ins with the offender, his wife and the victim.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Dec 4 said the couple were volunteers at the therapeutic group home where the girl was residing.
The teenager, who was under the care of MSF, had moved in with the home after her father subjected her to sexual abuse by touching her inappropriately in January 2018.
The girl, who was 16 when she moved in with the couple, was in the process of being adopted when she was sexually assaulted by the man who wanted to take her in.
The 39-year-old man was on Nov 28 sentenced to 10 years’ jail and nine strokes of the cane after pleading guilty to four counts of exploitative sexual penetration of a minor who is 16 or 17.
Another nine charges were taken into consideration for his sentencing.
MSF said there were phased contacts between the couple and the victim before the girl started living with the man and his wife in their home.

She met them during supervised visitations at the therapeutic group home, as well as at outings, before it progressed to home leave and full-time care.
“From December 2019 to early April 2020 before circuit breaker, she was on home leave with the couple that started from a day to a few days a week.
“Her home leave was suspended during circuit breaker from April to May 2020 and resumed gradually from June 2020. From Sept 15, 2020, she stayed with the couple daily,” the ministry added.

Between September and mid-November 2020, the man subjected her to multiple forms of sexual penetration, including sodomy. The acts took place almost daily.
MSF said despite weekly check-ins with professionals to monitor the girl’s well-being, safety and progress, as well as the couple’s regular sessions with professionals to assess their ability to care for her, no sexual abuse concerns were detected.
The professionals included psychologists and case workers from the therapeutic group home, a psychiatrist and a psychologist from the Institute of Mental Health, and a child protection officer.
MSF said child abuse is often hard to detect, particularly when a caregiver actively hides it.
The ministry added: “This case highlights how detection can be difficult even with close and constant support provided by professionals.
“It also shows the critical role of having trusted individuals in one’s life. In this case, if not for the teacher the young person trusted and confided in, the abuse might have remained hidden for much longer.”

The man who abused her was a manager at a youth leadership development firm at the time and the father of two young boys. He cannot be named due to a gag order to protect the victim’s identity.
The girl was 13 in June 2017 when her mother killed herself in front of her. As a result, she suffered from adjustment disorder with depressed mood.
In January 2018, her father subjected her to sexual abuse by touching her inappropriately. She was removed from her father’s care in March 2018 and MSF placed her in the care of a family friend.
In June 2018, one of her close friends committed suicide and the girl later engaged in self-harm by repeatedly using a blade to cut her limbs.
Assessed to be a suicide risk, she was placed in a centre designed to help girls who suffered trauma or abuse reintegrate into society.
The company that the offender was working in was running a camp for girls in June 2019. This was where he met the victim, who was a camp participant.
During the camp, she told the offender that she was hoping for foster care or adoption, as she could not return to her biological family.
The man’s wife agreed with his decision to adopt the girl. His family was later assessed by MSF to be suitable caregivers.
In September 2020, she was at the man’s home when he suggested they take part in an activity. He told her to stand topless before a mirror and describe what she saw while he stood blindfolded nearby.
She did not know what the activity was for, but assumed it might be some form of therapy for her.
Soon after, he started to rub her chest, claiming it would help her body release some “love chemicals”.
This happened on multiple occasions, and she allowed him to do so as she trusted the man and felt close to him.

Between September and November 2020, he also sexually penetrated her, made her perform sex acts on him and would sometimes use his mobile phone to take photographs and videos of the acts.
The court heard that the girl felt guilty after the sexual acts and started harming herself again. She also felt that she was “trash and worthless”.
She told a teacher about her ordeal, who then alerted the police.
MSF said in its reply that all volunteers in MSF-funded programmes involving contact with clients undergo background reference checks and suitability assessments by social service agencies.
“No risk factors emerged during the assessment of the couple’s suitability as kith caregivers for the girl. Trained professionals assessed them as caring and capable of supporting her needs,” the ministry added.
Kith caregivers are non-familial adults known to the child through family or community connections, and they are not registered as foster parents.
MSF said the girl did not disclose the abuse to professionals supporting her until she told her school teacher in November 2020.
MSF added: “Although the young person had some signs of self-harm, that would not have indicated that she was being sexually abused, as due to her past trauma history, she had ongoing self-harm behaviour before she was under the care of the couple.”
The teen is now staying with her relatives and receiving support from a family service centre social worker and a hospital psychologist.