SkillsFuture Singapore strengthening its fraud detection system through data analytics

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

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

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