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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rejected ST Forum letter: "Unfair of HDB to demand $18k back for its mistake"

Since the Straits Times chose not to print my letter, I'll publish it here.
I refer to the article, "HDB wants $18k payout back from ex-hawker" (ST, Jan 12).

It states that the Housing Board wants Madam Lee Ah Muey to return $18,000 that it had given to her after she closed her stall. However, she was not entitled to this compensation since she had signed a contract agreeing to it. Four years later, Mdm Lee now has three weeks to cough up the huge amount.

This incident reeks of heavy-handedness and coercion. It is unfair of HDB to demand the money back for three reasons:
  1. It was HDB's mistake in the first place. So why is it forcing its former tenant to pay for its mistake?
  2. The incident happened in 2003. That is longer than necessary for HDB to realise and investigate its mistake, especially for such a large amount of money.
  3. Mdm Lee is a senior citizen living off her savings. It is unlikely that she can return the money in time and will probably be forced into debt by borrowing from others. The article even states that she may be forced to crawl back to HDB to rent a stall. Yet it is not her fault to be in this predicament in the first place.
I realise that the issue is about HDB's accountability of the usage of public funds. However, accountability can go both ways. HDB should admit to its screw-up and write off the payout. It is the only logical and compassionate avenue available to it.

For the sake of its brand and reputation, I advise HDB to take the high road in this issue and not pursue the matter any more. It should also ensure that processes are put in place to ensure that no such mistakes occur again, so as to ensure proper accountability of public funds.

If this incident had happened in a private company, the CEO would most likely have apologised for the mistake, then fired the employee responsible for it. The savings from the employee's salary would more than make up for the wrongful payout!
Background on the issue (from Today, because Straits Times doesn't have the article freely available on its website).

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What more would you expect from an ungracious government. I'd expect them to say it was an "honest mistake" and therefore the HDB was not at fault and no one there should be held accountable. I'm just so sick of how time and again Singaporeans are bullied by an uncaring government. I really wish that someday, all those uncaring, self righteous ministers and mps get their dues for their part in all of this.

Yuhui said...

Anonymous - I'll reserve comment on that. :)

HDB Window Grilles said...

Maybe there is an software glitch or maybe there is some accounting fraud ... which ever the case, written contract is what really matters.

Anonymous said...

Glitch or human error, HDB reserves the rights to being the winning party. Higher chance to fight back if the area involves opposition party to speak up. Trust me, I have been a victim of an HDB saga for more than 2 years.

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