Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Record $420 million in CPF arrears recovered

By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 29 Apr 2014

THE Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board recovered a record $420 million in arrears from errant companies last year, and also secured more convictions.

It was a big jump from the $293 million it recovered in 2012, after the board stepped up its checks on companies last year.

Of the total sum, $16.6 million was recovered on behalf of more than 19,000 workers from 3,900 companies which did not pay - or underpaid - their workers' CPF.

The lion's share, $406.6 million, was collected from some 43,000 companies which paid CPF to their 230,000 workers late, after a 14-day grace period.

The board's director of enforcement Ng Hock Keong said that workers are now more aware of their rights.

"This has enabled us to take swifter action against errant employers as more workers are now coming forward to check their CPF entitlements," he said.

In September 2012, the CPF Board and Manpower Ministry started a year-long campaign to help low-wage workers know their CPF and employment rights.

At the same time, they formed a dedicated team of 20 inspectors, including several retired policemen, who uncovered dubious practices after they interviewed more than 12,000 workers at more than 3,000 offices and worksites.

Apart from recovering more money, the board also hauled more employers to court last year.

There were 243 convictions against errant companies last year, up from 219 in 2012.

Member of Parliament Zainudin Nordin, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, urged the CPF Board not to let up on its efforts.

"Employers should not take their responsibility lightly and must treat workers with due respect, in terms of what is due to them," he said.

A repeat offender who was convicted by the CPF Board twice in a row was Mr Lim A Tiang, the sole proprietor of two motor workshops, Kangtan and KT Lim Motor Services, in Ang Mo Kio.

He was fined $12,000 in 2012 and $12,900 last year for paying workers' CPF late.

Another employer, QHS Express Services, said it was a misunderstanding that led to the transport company being fined $2,400 for not paying three workers' CPF last September.

"It has been settled," said Mr Terrance Quek, son of the company's owner.

Mr Ivan Ho, owner of moving company Lele Moving Services, told The Straits Times he was unable to pay his staff CPF on time because his client was late in paying him, resulting in a $5,400 fine in August last year.

"I give my clients 90 days' credit, but the CPF Board does not give me any credit," he said with a sigh.

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