CPF throws another family into the spotlight after they shared how their missing father was being charged premiums for 23 years

5 August was the 23rd anniversary of the disappearance of Facebook user Yukumi Wu’s father, Mr Boo Meng Hock. Sharing a photo of the police report that was made over two decades ago, Ms Wu recounted that her father was last seen at the Singapore Island Country Club where he worked as a caddy, according to his friends.

Ms Wu wrote, “We suspected he has been murdered but his body hasn’t been found. There is no proper burial for him. We assumed he is still alive!”

In her post, Ms Wu also noted that in all the years since her father went missing, the CPF Board has been deducting money from his MediShield account. She said there was no way to stop the deductions as the family don’t yet have a death certificate for Mr Boo. According to the records, he is still alive.

Mr Wu then says, “I have kept this police report for 23 years! I don’t know whether in the new SPF system, still has his records as a missing person we filed 23 years ago?”

CPF doesn’t know he’s been missing

A couple of days later on 7 August, CPF responded to Ms Wu’s claims with a Facebook post of their own saying that they empathise with the situation that the family is facing. CPF claims that their records show that no one from the family approached the CPF Board for assistance on the matter and have reached out to them to explain the step necessary to declare Mr Boo as deceased.

The Board added “In line with industry practice, CPFB treats an individual as being alive until the person has been registered as deceased with the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA).”

They go on to explain how a missing person can be registered as deceased with the ICA.

The Board then says that for the past 23 years, Mr Boo has been receiving various bonuses and vouchers such as the Pioneer Generation pay-outs, GST vouchers, MediSave top-ups, SG Bonus, GST credits (between 2007-2010), growth dividend (2008-2010), and the Grow and Share packages – all amounting to about S$15,000 in cash. All because they still consider him to be alive. The Board highlighted that these come up to more than the MediShield Life premium deductions of about S$7,300.

They end their post by urging the family to obtain a court order to declare Mr Boo as deceased and submit it to the ICA.

TOC notes that Ms Wu’s Facebook name is not actually her real name and she did not release any personal information on her own post apart from the name of her father which can be seen in the photo of the police report she shared.

However, Ms Wu also told us that prior to CPF posting their response, a Chinese press reporter had contacted her on her mobile for comments on the story. Ms Wu told TOC the reporter refused to reveal how they had got hold of her contact details. Her full name was apparently published in the Chinese report as well.

Ms Wu also told us that CPF has called her up after she published her Facebook post. She said she never expected to that the Board would have a public post about her case or publish her real name.

Family disputes CPF’s claims

Responding to comments on her post, Ms Wu clarified that the family did reach out to their MP at the time to seek help with the case. The MP had referred them to a lawyer but the legal fees were over S$3,000 and it would cost them upwards of S$6,000 to obtain a death certificate from the High Court. The family couldn’t afford it.

They had also approached legal aid but at the time, Ms Wu and her mother were both working and their combined income meant that they were not eligible for Legal Aid.

When asked whether they could apply for the certificate directly without a lawyer, Ms Wu said they don’t know how to go about it.

Speaking to TOC, Ms Wu quashed claims that the family has been taking the money that was deposited into the father’s account all this while. Ms Wu said the family hasn’t seen Mr Boo’s bank book and all the cheques that were previously sent are all ‘intact’. Surely CPF can confirm that the cheques were never cashed?

As for any letters that were sent by CPF, Ms Wu said they were all delivered to her mother’s address but as her mother is illiterate, she could have passed it on to Ms Wu’s siblings.

Ms Wu also refuted CPF’s claim that the family did not reach out to the Board for assistance. Ms Wu explained that back in 2002 after receiving cheques from the CPF Board, she did in fact reach out to CPF to tell them that her father was missing. But as they didn’t have a death certificate, a staff told them there was nothing they could do. Ms Wu also said that the family was hoping that Mr Boo would return home one day.

She did also say that the CPF staff explained that if the cheques sent out remained uncashed, the money would go back into the recipients CPF account.

Ms Wu said her mother is ageing and she wants to use her father’s MediSave balance to help pay for her mother’s medical check-ups. Unfortunately, this entire ordeal is making that difficult.

Too many unanswered questions

The thing is, Ms Wu also told us that people have started to accuse her and her family of cashing in on the benefits and cash that were rolling in throughout the 23 years since her father disappeared. This is not true, she says.

After all, ATM cards in Singapore are generally only valid for 10 years and money can only be withdrawn by the account holder. If a person is really missing, as in the case of Mr Boo, how can the family withdraw any of the money from his bank account that the CPF said they deposited the payments into?

Now, in her post, Ms Wu merely stated that her father is missing and that CPF has apparently been making MediSave deductions. She also told us that the Singapore Police Force (SPF) has not followed up with the family for 23 years on Mr Boo’s case. Is he still in Singapore? Is he untraceable? What is the status of this missing person investigation?

As for CPF, can the Board clarify if the family would have access to Mr Boo’s account all these years? And given that Ms Wu’s father has been missing for over two decades now, how would the family have access to the money at all?

After all, if they had intended collecting the payments and keeping it for themselves, wouldn’t they have just kept quiet about the whole thing instead of taking the story online to ask for help?

Also important is the issue of ICA certifying, or rather not certifying Mr Boo as deceased. After all, isn’t the ICA and SPF under the same Minister of Home Affairs? Given that PM Lee has said that ministries are supposed to work together, shouldn’t the Police have informed ICA that Mr Boo has been missing for more than seven years which would mean a death certificate can be issued? Singapore is rather small. If the ICA has no records of Mr Boo leaving the country in the past 23 years, what are the chances of him appearing alive in Singapore after all these years?

So there was no communication between SPF and ICA nor ICA with the CPF Board. So is this a case of various government department pushing the blame around to each other?

Not the first time a Singaporean has duelled with CPF

This isn’t the first time CPF has thrown a family out in the open, alleging misconduct on the side of the complainant when they bring up a problem they’ve been facing with regards to the Board.

In July, a Singaporean man, Mr Suriia Das shared about his attempt to transfer his CPF savings in his ordinary and special accounts into his wife’s MediSave account to pay for her cancer treatment. The application was denied by the CPF Board as they claimed that Mr Das was not yet 55 years old and therefore is unable to withdraw his savings.

CPF had also made a long statement on their Facebook page saying that they had advised the couple to seek treatment at a public hospital and that CPF-allowed insurance schemes have already paid out a total of S$510,000 while S$34,000 has been withdrawn from both the CPF accounts of the couple.

However, Mr Das later come forward to clarify that CPF failed to mention that the reason the couple sought treatment at a private hospital was because other doctors in public institutions told them that there was nothing more they could do for his wife.

Mr Das also clarified that while CPF was spot on with the S$186,500 waiver on their outstanding HDB mortgage loan, the rest of their statement was inaccurate. He noted that the actual up to date sum paid out on medical grounds of S$323,500 – out of that, S$34,000 was their own money from their MediSave accounts. He also noted that their private insurance covered 90% of the costs, not CPF, a fact that the Board neglected to specify in their post.