SINGAPORE: Over nearly four years, a director responsible for 11 child care centers colluded with the parents of 34 children to make over S$133,000 in unauthorized withdrawals from their children’s Child Development Accounts (CDAs) .
Former director of Sweetlands Childcare, Chan Chew Shia, 58, has been fined S$90,000 on 30 counts of breaching child development co-savings regulations by making unauthorized withdrawals. 124 other charges were considered.
She paid half the fine in advance and will have to pay the rest by July 25 this year.
The Child Development Co-Savings Scheme, also known as the Baby Bonus Scheme, is administered by the Department of Social and Family Development and aims to support parents by reducing the financial costs of raising children.
Under this scheme, parents can open special savings accounts for their children, called CDAs. The government matches savings deposited in these accounts on a dollar-to-dollar basis up to a specified amount based on the child’s order of birth, the court said.
The money can be used for child-related expenses such as education and medical care.
Chan was the licensed person for 10 of the 11 centers under the Sweetlands Childcare brand and was authorized to make withdrawals from a child’s CDA for permitted purposes.
At some point in 2011, Chan offered a matching program to provide loans to parents who owed unpaid tuition or other childcare costs to Sweetlands Childcare.
She would make deposits in a child’s CDA in order to attract the matching contribution from MSF.
It did this by withdrawing funds from daycare bank accounts using cash checks and depositing them into CDA accounts. The amount deposited depended on the unpaid fees the family owed the daycare.
After that, Chan prepared the deduction forms, before making deductions from the child development accounts either personally or through his clerk.
Matching contributions from MSF would be used to pay for school fees due to the daycares, and Chan made the decisions on all matters relating to this program.
A total of S$133,674 was deducted from 34 children’s CDAs spread across seven day care centers between August 2011 and March 2015 for loan repayment.
MSF INTERACTIONS WITH CHAN
Initially, Chan spoke to an MSF customer service employee by phone on September 7, 2010, and was “incorrectly informed that the matching scheme was authorized”, the prosecutor said.
However, MSF agents conducted an audit of Sweetlands Childcare in March 2011 and learned from Chan about the matching program it offered to parents, as well as the phone call.
Agents told Chan she shouldn’t make CDA deductions for loan repayments.
Months later, in May 2011, an MSF agent spoke to Chan on the phone to tell her again that she should not make such withdrawals and that repayment of the loan was not an approved use of MSF funds. the CDA.
Another parent complained and MSF officers conducted another audit of Sweetlands Childcare in April 2014. They found that Chan was still offering the matching program to some parents, with account deductions for loan repayments , and again told him to stop doing it.
MSF sent Chan a letter on July 29, 2015, stating that unauthorized deductions had been made from the ADCs of various children and violated regulations.
MSF filed a police report in May 2015 and Chan has since reimbursed S$5,880 to CDAs.
The court heard it was the first such prosecution and violations are not subject to a fine.
A LOT OF PUBLIC RESOURCES SPENDING
Deputy Attorney General Cheng Yuxi demanded a fine of S$90,000, saying Chan abused a government scheme for his benefit, undermining the CDA’s structure and its goals.
Many public resources were spent, Ms Cheng said, saying MSF needed to closely monitor CDA deductions and childcare subsidy applications by Sweetlands centres, keep parents of children studying there informed of developments and send more than 20 workers from MSF and the Early Childhood Development Agency to their centers to look into the issues and protect the interests of the students.
Questions have also been raised in Parliament about what the Minister of Social and Family Development intends to do to tighten control over CDA, with Ms Low Yen Ling saying MSF takes “very, very seriously any failure to use funds of the CDA”. “.
The offenses have also caused public concern, with Nee Soon RCMP MP Lee Bee Wah saying the incident has caused “a lot of anxiety among young parents” in her constituency.
Chan claimed his motive for the offense was to help the families of students who could not afford school fees, but Ms Cheng said the offenses “actually resulted in personal gain for the accused”.
“The purpose of the defendant’s deposits was to trigger MSF’s matching contribution, which could be used to pay for the school fees of its childcare centers which were in deficit,” Ms Cheng said.
Chan’s lawyer pointed out how his client was on the verge of bankruptcy after the news broke and how she suffered mentally in the run-up to her lawsuit.
For each accusation of making unauthorized withdrawals from a children’s development account, Chan could have been fined up to S$20,000.