Theft of Grocery Vouchers02 Nov 2020
Parliamentary Question by Mr. Saktiandi Supaat:
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance with regard to the recent theft of Budget 2020 grocery vouchers from residents' letter boxes (a) whether the Government has explored other distribution methods to issue the grocery vouchers seamlessly and securely to residents; and (b) whether technology can be used to provide seamless distribution of the grocery vouchers or future vouchers to households, for example, using PayNow.
Parliamentary Question by Mr. Lim Biow Chuan:
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance (a) what are the reasons for sending the Budget 2020 grocery vouchers by post to eligible recipients; and (b) whether the Government has made any assessment on the risk of lost or stolen grocery vouchers.
Parliamentary Question by Mr. Ang Wei Neng:
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance (a) how many sets of the $150 Budget 2020 grocery vouchers have been given to Singaporeans; (b) how many sets have been stolen; (c) whether other ways of distributing the grocery vouchers instead of posting them have been considered; and (d) whether digital distribution of the vouchers have been considered.
Parliamentary Reply by Second Minister for Finance and Education, Ms Indranee Rajah:
With your permission, Mr Speaker, may I take questions 16 - 18 together?
The Grocery Vouchers scheme aims to help less well-off Singaporeans with their household expenses during this period of economic uncertainty. All Singaporeans aged 21 and above in 2020 living in 1- and 2-room HDB flats, who do not own more than one property, are eligible. This group of recipients is largely older, with the majority aged 55 and above.
About 150,000 sets of Grocery Vouchers, each worth $150, were mailed out via tracked registered mail to eligible Singaporeans in October this year. Of these 150,000 sets, the vast majority reached their intended recipients smoothly. 229 sets, or less than 0.2%, have been reported as stolen as of 28 Oct 2020. The police are investigating the reported theft cases and have made 55 arrests as of 28 Oct 2020. Based on SPF’s investigations, the thefts appear to be opportunistic, and the cases are not linked. In some cases, the recipients had left their letterboxes unlocked.
The small number of vouchers reported as stolen have been voided, and replacement vouchers are being issued to eligible recipients. We encourage everyone to keep their letterboxes locked and repair any damaged letterboxes to avoid theft.
On the choice of the delivery mode, we balanced between public health constraints amidst COVID-19, reasonable convenience for the recipients, and security. Some of the recipients may not own a smartphone, have a mobile data plan, or be digitally ready. If digital vouchers were used, more time and efforts would have been needed to first provide appropriate digital interfaces, before the recipients can receive the intended support with their household expenses. That said, as digital literacy improves among older Singaporeans, we may be able to consider digital vouchers for this group in future.
We also considered the option of self-collection at the nearest Community Club or Centre, but this would create additional inconvenience for senior citizens, especially those with mobility issues. There may also be crowding at the collection points.
On balance, we sent the Grocery Vouchers via registered mail for optimal convenience to the intended recipients. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for safe distancing, SingPost adopted contactless delivery measures earlier this year, including the redirection of Registered Mail services to the letterboxes. SingPost will monitor and verify successful deliveries to recipients’ letterboxes, with a photo taken by the postman as proof of delivery.
To mitigate theft and fraud, each voucher has unique features which enable us to identify the intended recipient, and trace any voucher to specific locations and time of transaction. That said, we will continue to review the ongoing disbursements to balance between security and convenience for recipients.