Causes of Reported Time Lag Issues in Data Used to Determine Eligibility for GSTV-U-Save Rebates and Remedial Actions Taken01 Aug 2022
Parliamentary Question by Dr Tan Wu Meng:
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance regarding the finding of the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) Report for the financial year 2021/22 that GSTV-U-Save rebates could have been given to ineligible households (a) what are the reasons and root causes for the reported time lag issues in the data used to determine eligibility; (b) whether there are households that are eligible but do not qualify during the initial eligibility assessment; and (c) if so, how many are there and whether these households have since received their rebates.
Parliamentary Question by He Ting Ru:
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance in respect of the finding in the Report of the Auditor-General for FY 2021/2022 about the possible disbursement of GST--U-Save vouchers to ineligible households (a) whether any steps were taken to verify a household’s eligibility for U-Save vouchers prior to disbursement; (b) if so, what were the steps taken; and (c) apart from the mostly time lag issues, what were the other reasons for the possible disbursement to ineligible households.
Parliamentary Reply by Second Minister for Finance Ms Indranee Rajah:
Mr Speaker, my response today will also cover a similar Parliamentary Question filed by Ms He Ting Ru for a subsequent sitting. If Ms He is satisfied with the response, she may wish to withdraw her question after this session.
The Ministry of Finance uses data from various government agencies to determine the eligibility of households for the GST Voucher (GSTV) – U-Save rebates. This way, Singaporeans need not apply for the rebate and will automatically receive the rebates in their utilities accounts.
The data used include the identities of the owners and occupiers of HDB flats, the number and types of properties they own, and their citizenship and living status. The relevant government agencies have processes in place to keep their databases updated. For additional assurance, MOF also engages an external auditor to conduct an annual audit on the allotment logic for U-Save rebates, to make sure that households are given the correct amount of rebates. For the U-Save payments that were the subject of AGO’s report, no errors were detected during these prior checks.
One of the eligibility conditions for U-Save rebates is that the household must include a living Singapore citizen. From AGO’s observations, some households were given rebates that they were not eligible for, as the sole Singapore citizen household member had already passed away as of the date used to determine eligibility. The error arose as there was a time lag in some deceased citizens’ living status data, due to legal processing of records after their deaths had taken place. For example, the date used to determine eligibility was 1 December. The citizen’s death on 30 November might not have been updated in agencies’ database until after 1 December as some time is taken to document and process the death record. So the household was tagged as being eligible. By the time of the AGO audit, the updated data showed the date of death as 30 November and the household concerned would not been eligible.
While we try to strive to keep our data updated as soon as possible, there are practical constraints. This time lag issue affected about 3,100 households, or about 0.3% of all households living in HDB flats. There were another 23 cases of U-Save rebates given even though there were no Singaporean citizens in the household, due to errors in agencies’ databases. Time lag and data errors were the two sources of errors found during the AGO audit.
On Dr Tan’s question about those who qualify after initial assessment, eligibility is determined on a pre-determined cut-off date. Those who do not qualify on that date will not be eligible for the relevant round of rebates. However, should their circumstances change after that date such that they subsequently meet the eligibility criterion, they will be included in the later disbursements of the rebates (provided they remain eligible at the next cut-off date).
As for Dr Tan’s question whether there are eligible households who have missed out on the U-save rebates, we have not found any system flaws resulting in this. Any feedback or appeals regarding eligible households who may not have received their rebates is investigated to ensure that eligible households are not left out.
MOF has commenced recovery of the rebates given to ineligible households. We are working with data agencies to tighten our operational processes to ensure the use of latest available data to administer the GSTV – U-Save scheme.