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Parliament in brief: Clawing back Jobs Support Scheme overpayments, alternative work venues for public servants, noisy birds

SINGAPORE — During a parliamentary session on Tuesday (Oct 5), Members of Parliament (MP) from both sides of the aisle raised questions ranging from the recovery of wrongly disbursed Jobs Support Scheme monies to alternative work arrangements for public servants who are required to work from home but lack a suitable environment.

The questions asked by Members of Parliament on Oct 5, 2021, included a matter regarding complaints about the call of the Asian Koel bird.

The questions asked by Members of Parliament on Oct 5, 2021, included a matter regarding complaints about the call of the Asian Koel bird.

Singapore

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  • The Government has recovered about 97.6 per cent of wrongly disbursed monies from 4,862 firms as of the end of September
  • The monies were disbursed under the Jobs Support Scheme 
  • Public servants who find their home environments unsuitable for work may seek approval to return to the workplace, subject to prevailing Covid-19 rules
  • NParks has received an average of 640 cases of feedback yearly between 2016 and 2020 regarding noise disturbance from the Asian Koel bird

 

SINGAPORE — During a parliamentary session on Tuesday (Oct 5), Members of Parliament (MP) from both sides of the aisle raised questions ranging from the recovery of wrongly disbursed Jobs Support Scheme monies to alternative work arrangements for public servants who are required to work from home but lack a suitable environment.

Other questions included one about what was being done to address residents’ complaints about noise disturbances from the Asian Koel, a bird native to Singapore with a call familiar to all Singaporeans.

RECOVERY OF WRONGLY DISBURSED MONIES

The Government has recovered S$361 million, or about 97.6 per cent, of wrongly disbursed Jobs Support Scheme monies from 4,862 firms as of the end of last month, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said.

Mr Wong revealed this in response to a question from MP Cheryl Chan of East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC), who had asked for an update on recovery efforts for the scheme’s overpayment.

In April this year, the Government announced that about S$370 million was erroneously credited to about 5,400 companies in October last year, after mistakes were made in computing the disbursements.

Mr Wong said on Tuesday that the Government expects to recover another S$6.8 million (1.8 per cent) by March next year.

This will bring the total expected recovery of overpayment to S$367.8 million (99.4 per cent).

“The recovery will be through offsets against future payouts of other enterprise support schemes, such as the Jobs Growth Incentive Scheme and Wage Credit Scheme, as well as commitments by firms to repay the amounts,” Mr Wong said.

As for the remaining S$2.2 million (0.6 per cent) owed by 274 firms, the firms can either return these amounts in cash via lump-sum or instalment payments.

“As the firms’ circumstances vary, the Government will tailor our recovery approaches to the different types of circumstances, and seek to recover as much as possible of the overpaid amounts,” Mr Wong added.

ALTERNATIVE WORK VENUES FOR PUBLIC SERVANTS

Public servants who find their home environments unsuitable for work may seek approval to return to the workplace, subject to the prevailing safe management measures, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said.

Mr Chan, who is also Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, was responding to a question from Dr Tan Wu Meng, MP of Jurong GRC, about the support measures for public servants who lack a suitable environment to work from home during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Tan had also asked what proportion of public service staff members have taken up alternative work venue arrangements — a figure that Mr Chan said the Government does not keep track.

He said, though, that hybrid working arrangements are likely to continue, and the public service is planning to launch a “network of geographically distributed shared co-working spaces” located in existing public agency-owned spaces that will be open to all public officers.

He added that these locations will be closer to the homes of public servants as well.

“Officers who find their home environments unsuitable for work may utilise these spaces when they are ready,” he added.

MANAGING BIRDS

The National Parks Board (NParks) received an average of 640 cases of feedback a year between 2016 and 2020 regarding noise disturbance from the Asian Koel, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said.

These figures were given in response to a question raised by Workers’ Party MP Louis Chua of Sengkang GRC about the annual number of complaints regarding noise disturbance from the bird. The distinctive “koo-oo” call of the male is often heard in the early morning.

The bird is a cuckoo, which means it steals the nests of other birds.

Noting that the Asian Koel is a native species protected under the Wild Animals and Birds Act, Mr Chua had also asked what mitigation measures were being implemented to minimise roosting near residential areas, as well as its effectiveness.

Mr Lee said in reply that NParks conducts surveys at residential areas to identify hot spots where the Asian Koel is commonly found.

To deter the birds from perching or foraging in these sites, NParks works with town councils and management corporation strata titles to carry out habitat modification, such as tree pruning and replacement, as well as the harvesting of fruits to remove food sources.

“As the Asian Koel lays its eggs in crow nests, NParks also removes such nests to manage the population of these birds,” Mr Lee said.

He added that these measures have been effective in managing the population of Asian Koels in residential areas, in a sustainable and humane manner.

The male of the Asian Koel, which is native to Singapore. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Jobs Support Scheme Parliament Lawrence Wong Asian Koel work from home public servants

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