Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for National Development in each of the Financial Years in 2019, 2020 and 2021 (a) what was the total amount of funding allocated to Town Councils (TCs) for the implementation of safe management measures; (b) what was the total amount of claims from TCs submitted to the Ministry; (c) what were the actual amounts reimbursed to TCs; and (d) what was the average duration from the time the claims were submitted to when they were reimbursed.
Mr Desmond Lee: MND has been providing funding support to Town Councils (TCs) for the implementation of safe management measures (SMMs) at TC-managed hawker centers, wet markets and market produce shop clusters since 7 April 2020 when SMMs came into effect. This funding support is subject to cost caps, based on the Government’s assessment of the operational requirements TCs would need to put in place as a result of the prevailing SMM guidelines. MND regularly reviews the cost caps and has increased the cap several times to reflect the additional requirements expected of TCs, as the COVID-19 situation and SMM guidelines evolve. The cap was last increased on 1 December 2021, when TCs were additionally required to implement Vaccination-Differentiated Safe Management Measures (VDS) at TC-managed hawker centres.
For FY2020, TCs submitted claims amounting to $1.38 million in total, and MND disbursed $1.24 million in funding. As at 31 December 2021, TCs have submitted total claims of $4.66 million for FY2021, of which $4.65 million has been approved. The difference between the claimed and disbursed or approved amounts is due to claims that exceeded the cost caps set or claims for non-claimable items.
TCs’ SMM claims are collectively processed in batches, upon receipt of most TCs’ completed claims for the stipulated period. This is to facilitate analysis of trends, and comparison of claimable items across TCs so that MND can exercise due diligence and seek clarifications if there are anomalies, before disbursing the funds.
Typically, upon receipt of most TCs’ claims, it would take about one month for the claims to be verified and for payment to be credited to TCs’ accounts. However, there were cases of late claims submissions, and claims which contained errors or incomplete documentation. This held up the claims process, as clarifications or requests for further documentation had to be made. As the SMM claims are collectively processed upon receipt of most TCs’ claims, TCs which submitted their claims earlier might have experienced a longer period between claims submission and disbursement.
To streamline the claims process, MND transited to a subvention model for SMM funding in August 2021. TCs now no longer need to provide supporting documents when submitting their claims to MND. Instead, TCs’ SMM expenses and the supporting documents will be audited by each TC’s external auditor, as part of the annual financial statements audit. This will expedite the reimbursement process and shorten the interval between claims submission and reimbursement.
TCs can expect to receive payment for the FY2021 claims before end-March 2022. For TCs that have submitted late or incomplete claims, their claims will be processed at the next payment cycle.
Ministry of National Development
15 February 2022