The Housing Development Board’s (HDB) grants disbursement system will be automated, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee in Parliament on Monday (13 September).
He explained that the updated system will be able to accurately assess applicants’ eligibility even if they don’t declare material information to HDB, like ownership of property or alternate income streams.
Mr Lee said this following report by the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) in July revealed that housing grants amounting to S$405,000 were distributed to 13 ineligible applicants.
He also pointed out that HDB has taken actions to recover CPF housing grants that were erroneously granted to 12 ineligible applicants. As for the 13th applicant that was highlighted by AGO, Mr Lee said that it was correctly assessed.
In the report, AGO conducted data analysis on resale applications with Family Grant and Single Grant from 1 April 2018 to 30 September 2020 and found out that 1,152 applicants “might not be eligible” for the grants.
Out of the 22,627 who had applied for a total of S$807.77 million in Family and Single Grants, AGO said that 1,152 applicants might not be eligible for either of them.
“Of the 1,152 applicants, AGO test-checked 97 applicants and found that HDB had distributed Family Grants or Single Grants totalling (S$405,000) to 13 ineligible applicants (or 13.4 percent),” the report noted.
Mr Lee said that the eligibility status of the remaining 1,055 applicants flagged by AGO is being verified by HDB, and checks should be done by the end of this years and results will be reported.
The Minister said on Monday that grants were wrongly given to 12 applicants who had failed to declare material information to HDB, such as their actual income and private property ownership.
The omission was not detected in the verification check.
As a reply to questions raised by Workers’ Party’s (WP) Sylvia Lim, Mr Lee said the non-disclosure in each case will be looked at individually.
Ms Lim asked what caused the wrong distribution of the monies, as well as how will HDB be improving its control over the processing and assessment of CPF housing grants.
“We’ll look at the facts and circumstances behind each case. Some of the suppression of material may have been deliberate and some may have been a misunderstanding, we’ll have to look at it case by case,” he said.
HDB assesses each grant application by manually verifying the declared income against the documents submitted by the applicants and their occupiers. The manual checks will be done on documents such as pay slips, employers’ letters, commission statements, CPF contribution histories and notices of income tax assessment.
As for ownership of private property, HDB will verify documents like the notice of transfer, transfer instrument, as well as sale and purchase agreement.
“The verification process is often complex, especially when flat buyers and their occupiers have multiple sources of income or property ownership, both local and overseas,” he said.