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SkillsFuture Singapore strengthening its fraud detection system through data analytics

Yesterday in response to questions in the Singapore parliament on the government’s response to fraudulent claims from SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), Mr. Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), revealed that SSG is working to strengthen its fraud detection system through data analytics.

SSG is a statutory body under the Ministry of Education which aims to facilitate continuous education and training, upgrading skills to keep up with the fast pace of technological advancements and increasing competition.

In December 2017, several suspected members of a criminal syndicate were charged with a series of offences, including engaging in a conspiracy to submit forged documents to fraudulently obtain training subsidies from SSG and to conceal the benefits from such criminal conduct.

Preliminary police investigation revealed that the criminal syndicate behind these fraudulent claims operated an organised network that utilised nine business entities, comprising employer companies and training providers, to submit the fraudulent claims. Close to $40 million had been paid out as a result.

In addition to charging individuals with offences, the Police has seized $6.7 million in cash and 11 kg of gold, and frozen slightly more than $10 million in bank accounts.

Admitting to scope for improvement in the detection of fraudulent claims, Mr. Ong said, “What is clear is that this case involves fraudulent claims amounting to a large quantum. This should not have been allowed to happen. While we cannot always prevent all forms of fraudulent activities, SSG should have detected this case much earlier, especially when it was so egregious and the amounts involved were so large.”

SSG has formed an Inter-Agency Process Review Task Force, overseen by the SSG Board, and comprising members from SSG management, the Accountant-General’s Department, Commercial Affairs Department and Ministry of Education. The task force is conducting a thorough review of how the fraudulent cases happened, and will evaluate the current fraud detection system and make recommendations to improve the system.

One of the steps being taken is to improve the fraud detection system through data analytics.

“Fraudsters, who are going all out to cheat, are getting more sophisticated and their plans more elaborate. They will also evolve their approach. SSG’s detection system must be improved and become more sophisticated too,” Mr. Ong explained.

So, SSG is seeking to better detect false claims, without significantly affecting genuine employers applying for training grants to upgrade the skills of their workers, through appropriate use of data analytics and drawing on data across government agencies.

SSG is getting help from both private sector consultants and the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) to accomplish this.

It has restructured and strengthened the fraud detection and audit team. SSG has started implementing some of the measures manually, and will progressively automate and systemise them. By Q3 2018, a good and effective data analytics system is expected to be in place.

Featured image: GotCredit/ CC BY 2.0

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