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Covid-19: Govt will come down hard on those who abuse the Temporary Relief Fund, says Shanmugam

SINGAPORE — The Government will “come down quite hard” on anyone who abuses the Covid-19 Temporary Relief Fund (TRF) by making fraudulent claims, said Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Monday (April 13). The offence is considered cheating and carries a heavy jail sentence, he added.

“So we are going after a small number who are taking advantage (of the Temporary Relief Fund) because if we don’t, it will encourage others to try (and abuse the system as well),” said Mr K Shanmugam.

“So we are going after a small number who are taking advantage (of the Temporary Relief Fund) because if we don’t, it will encourage others to try (and abuse the system as well),” said Mr K Shanmugam.

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SINGAPORE — The Government will “come down quite hard” on anyone who abuses the Covid-19 Temporary Relief Fund (TRF) by making fraudulent claims, said Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Monday (April 13). The offence is considered cheating and carries a heavy jail sentence, he added.

Mr Shanmugam, who was responding to questions from reporters, said the application process for the TRF had been made simple on purpose so that Singaporeans who require financial aid can get the support they need as quickly as possible.

However, he added that there is a small number of people who have taken advantage of the process by making fraudulent claims. Some have even taught others how to game the system.

Said Mr Shanmugam: “(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 (for the fund) who need immediate cash will then get affected.”

“So we are going after a small number who are taking advantage (of the process) because if we don’t, it will encourage others to try,” he added.

On Sunday, the police and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said in a joint statement that a 41-year-old man is under investigation for possible abuse of the TRF. 

The man had claimed in a post online that he was able to obtain TRF aid without any documents and that the system is “so simple to cheat”.

Last Tuesday, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said in a post on Facebook that the authorities were aware of a “very small number of people” who are taking advantage of the TRF by trying to cheat the system.

On Monday, Mr Shanmugam said some of the offenders have since come forward to return the money as they did not need it.

When asked about the number of fraudulent claims that have been identified, Mr Shanmugam said he is not aware of the exact number but added that the MSF has the details on the extent of fraudulent claims.

When approached by TODAY, MSF declined to share the number of fraudulent claims it has received.

On whether the cases of fraud will result in changes to the application process for the TRF, Mr Shanmugam said the MSF does not intend to change its approach but there will be a “fair bit of checking” as the applications are processed.

“If we find that there have been fraudulent applications, you can be sure actions will be brought. 

“It won’t affect how quickly (MSF) hands out the cash but those who want to cheat the system will have to think twice,” he said.

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Covid-19 coronavirus Temporary Relief Fund K Shanmugam

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