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RESPONSE TO FEEDBACK RECEIVED FROM PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON DRAFT SKILLSFUTURE SINGAPORE AGENCY (AMENDMENT) BILL 2022 AND DRAFT SKILLS DEVELOPMENT LEVY (AMENDMENT) BILL 2022

The Ministry of Education (MOE) and SkillsFuture Singapore Agency (SSG) invited the public to provide feedback1  on the draft SSG (Amendment) Bill 2022 and the Skills Development Levy (SDL) (Amendment) Bill 2022 from 8 July to 5 August 2022.

The draft Bills propose legislative amendments to the SkillsFuture Singapore Agency Act 2016 and Skills Development Levy Act 1979 to strengthen the regulatory powers of SSG over errant entities and persons against the abuse and misrepresentation of SSG funding and schemes. This will give SSG more investigative powers and allow SSG to take punitive actions against errant entities and persons, as well as direct errant parties to take remedial actions where necessary (e.g. refund monies to affected individuals and return disbursed funding to SSG). The amendments will also improve clarity, including refining the coverage of funding under the SSG Act and aligning the definition of ‘remuneration’ in the SDL Act to that of ‘wages’ in the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Act.

At the close of the public consultation exercise, MOE and SSG received a total of 22 responses. The feedback received was generally supportive of the proposed policy changes. A summary of the key feedback and MOE and SSG’s responses can be found in Table 1.

MOE and SSG would like to thank all those who have contributed to our public consultation exercise. The amendments are targeted to come into effect in 1H 2023.


Table 1

S/N Feedback MOE and SSG’s response
1
Some respondents suggested that there should be heavier penalties for the offences, i.e., for facilitating an abusive funding arrangement or publishing false or misleading advertisements for SkillsFuture-related schemes and eligible courses.
The current proposed penalties are consistent with and proportionate to those for similar offences in other Acts, such as the Income Tax Act (for persons guilty of facilitating an abusive funding arrangement), and the Private Education Act (for persons issuing false or misleading advertisements).
2
Given the strength of the additional investigative powers proposed in the SSG Act for officers carrying out investigations on behalf of SSG (e.g. to enter premises, search for and seize computers/documents, conduct oral examination, etc.), some respondents suggested that such investigations should be conducted by independent persons or agencies such as the Police rather than SSG officers.
The proposed legislative amendments set out the scope of the investigative powers of SSG officers and put in place safeguards in the SSG Act, to ensure that the powers will not be abused. For example, similar to the Private Education Act, powers to conduct searches can only be exercised in instances where there is reasonable cause to believe that the premises contain evidence of an offence.

For cases involving errant entities or persons with fraudulent intentions, SSG will continue to work with the Police to investigate them.
3
The proposed provisions will allow SSG to direct Training Providers to take remedial action if the course does not start on the scheduled date or ceases before it is completed. However, some respondents suggested that Training Providers should not be penalised if they have to terminate the enrolment of particular trainees in a programme for legitimate reasons, e.g. false declaration, errant behaviours, etc.
The provisions in the SSG Act only allow for SSG to issue a direction for remedial action against a Training Provider after SSG has assessed that such action is warranted to protect the learner’s interest. Even after the direction is issued, Training Providers will be given the opportunity to provide justifications for their actions. SSG will then review the justifications to assess if there are valid grounds for the Training Provider’s actions.

1Public views sought on act amendment to strengthen SSG’s regulatory oversight and investigative powers’ (8 July 2022)