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Sweetlands Childcare directors under probe to be removed as Approved Persons

SINGAPORE — The two directors of the Sweetlands Childcare centres, who were earlier under investigation over unauthorised deductions from Child Development Accounts (CDA), will be stripped of their positions as Approved Persons (APs) by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

Sweetlands Childcare Woodlands 896B. Photo: Low Wei Xin

Sweetlands Childcare Woodlands 896B. Photo: Low Wei Xin

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SINGAPORE — The two directors of the Sweetlands Childcare centres, who were earlier under investigation over unauthorised deductions from Child Development Accounts (CDA), will be stripped of their positions as Approved Persons (APs) by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

Approved Persons are authorised persons of approved institutions registered with the ministry, and are allowed to make deductions from CDAs for the payment of childcare and related fees. The ministry had in July served notices to Mr Ho Boon Hong and Mdm Chan Chew Shia, who are husband and wife, seeking to revoke their Approved Person status, when the police began investigating Sweetlands Childcare.

An audit had found that they had allegedly made not only unauthorised withdrawals from the CDAs of several children, but also wrongful claims for childcare subsidies from the Government.

The couple were earlier given 28 days to provide “satisfactory reasons” to the MSF against the revocation. But after assessing the reasons the couple provided, the ministry “concluded that we have reasonable grounds to suspect that the two APs have breached the Child Development Co-Savings Regulations”, a ministry spokesperson said.

Asked to elaborate, the spokesperson said an AP must ensure the CDA withdrawals for the payment of fees are authorised by parents, are used for the child or sibling, and are used for approved expenses.

“In addition, the AP is also required to maintain proper records for a period of three years,” the spokesperson said. “We have reviewed the information we gathered and the explanations given by Sweetlands, and were not satisfied that the current APs were fulfilling these fully.”

The revocation takes effect next Wednesday. With the revocation of the directors’ status, children enrolled in the centres after Oct 20 will not be able to use their CDAs to pay for the childcare fees. However, the MSF said it has appointed a temporary Approved Person, a ministry staff member, to facilitate the CDA withdrawals for the children already enrolled in the centre on or before Oct 20, to “minimise disruptions as well as to ensure that the CDA withdrawals are valid”. Sweetlands Childcare is also required to find a suitable person to apply to be the new Approved Person.

Ten of the 11 Sweetlands centres are managed by Mdm Chan, while the remaining centre is run by Mr Ho. The revocation of their Approved Person status will not affect the centres’ childcare licences, and they will continue to operate as there are no issues with regard to the safety or well-being of the children. Eligible parents can still receive childcare subsidies, added the MSF.

When contacted by TODAY, Mdm Chan said she did not want to comment on the issue, but added that her “conscience is clear”.

A new Approved Person will also be appointed, she said before adding: “I never wanted to be an AP.”

“Everything is in order, all my centres are doing very well,” said Mdm Chan.

When TODAY visited one of the centres today, staff declined to respond to queries. A parent, Mr Lew Wei Keat, 38, who was picking up his four-year-old daughter, said he hoped for more answers from the childcare management as his child’s fees are deducted from the CDA.

“Of course it bothers (me), that I (may) pay extra (without knowing it myself),” said Mr Lew, an engineer. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STACEY LIM

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