His job involved disbursing money to low income families in need of financial help. But a Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) employee allegedly transferred the money to his own bank accounts. He then use the money to pay off his debts and lead a lavish lifestyle. In addition, he also repaid his debts, amounting to about $13,000, to several licensed moneylenders. Furthermore he used nearly $14,000 to pay for the redemption of gold.
In a press statement yesterday, MSF said Chia Kwang Hwee, 33, has been charged with misappropriation of funds. He faces a total of 126 charges.
Chia is a team leader at a Social Service Office (SSO) at Geylang Serai. His duties included assessing applications for financial help and putting them up to his supervisor for approval. In addition he also has to approve assistance for cases handled by other officers in his team. Furthermore, he has to case manage families with multiple needs.
Chia’s crime came to light after a beneficiary alerted MSF that he had not received his financial assistance payments. The management of the SSO at Geylang Serai noticed suspicious transactions involving Chia. Payments for 26 clients are disbursed into two bank accounts. The ministry made a police report after confirming that one of the bank accounts was Chia’s payroll account. He was arrested and suspended the next day. The ministry contacted the affected families immediately to ensure their financial assistance was not affected by the case.
He started small by depositing cheques worth $2,400 in 2011, but got increasingly bolder. In 2012, he embezzled cheques worth almost $60,000, and in 2013, he embezzled cheques worth nearly $140,000. He also faces 65 charges of using the Social Assistance Network System accounts of his colleagues. He used the accounts to embezzle more than $140,000 in 2013 and 2014.
MSF said its internal auditor has carry out checks on all SSO payment records. They confirmed that there were no other instances of a similar kind.
After the incident, the MSF also called for an independent review panel. The panel comprised of senior officials from other government sectors. This is done to look into the checks and control in place for financial assistance payments in all SSO.