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K Shanmugam issues warning—Government will “come down quite hard” on abusers of Covid-19 relief fund

The application process “requires applicants to be honest because if we get people who are not honest, then the requirements for checking will go up and a lot of honest people who are applying who need immediate cash will then get affected,” said the Law Minister

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Singapore—Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam on Monday (Apr 13) issued a warning on those who intend to abuse the Covid-19 Temporary Relief Fund. The Minister said that authorities plan to “come down quite hard” on those who file false claims.

The fund allows for a one-time S$500 cash assistance for qualified Singaporeans who are now unemployed or now have less income because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Shanmugam told members of the media in a video conference that the process to apply for the fund has been made easy in order for it to be as accessible as possible for those in need.

He explained that the application process “requires applicants to be honest because if we get people who are not honest, then the requirements for checking will go up and a lot of honest people who are applying who need immediate cash will then get affected.”

The majority of those who have availed of the fund, he added, have done so legitimately, as they have been in need.

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“That’s how this is intended to work,” said the Minister.

However, he warned that authorities “are going after a small number who are taking advantage” of the fund as a lesson for those who would be encouraged to take advantage of it if they see others successfully abuse the fund.

Such cases have been announced by the Singapore Police Force and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). Mr Shanmugam said that authorities are probing these cases.

The processing of applications for the Temporary Relief Fund is done quickly, with qualified recipients receiving the cash assistance via a bank transfer or a check.

The MSF has made the process flexible for applicants, and has even accepted screenshots and WhatsApp messages as supporting documents. Applicants who have no documents may also make a legal declaration to this effect.

Over 300,000 individuals have filled applications since April 1.

There have also been people who have actually returned the cash assistance given to them after Desmond Lee, Singapore’s Minister for Social and Family Development, warned against making fraudulent claims in a Facebook post on April 7, Mr Shanmugam said.

The people who sought to return their cash assistance said that they did not need the funds after all.

But the Minister added that it is unlikely that legal action will be taken against them, even though what they did may technically be constituted as an offence.

After a social media post wherein a netizen claimed that they had been able to avail of the cash assistance with no supporting documents, the police and the MSF said they had been alerted to this alleged case of abuse of the fund.

The police said the netizen who made the post is a Singaporean male, aged 41. He said the system was “so simple to cheat,” according to a joint statement from the MSF and the police.

According to the police, there are some on social media who are reportedly selling fraudulent payslips to those who wish to make false claims in applying for the Temporary Relief Fund, which authorities say they take very seriously indeed.

Those who are found guilty of cheating could be slapped with a fine or receive a jail sentence of up to 10 years. —/TISG

Read also: K Shanmugam: There is “far less” fake news in Singapore

K Shanmugam: There is “far less” fake news in Singapore

 

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