By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The Social Security Fund (FSS) said the number of people having given false information to claim pensions or allowances is in an “upward trend” in recent years.
The exact figures were unknown as the Third Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly said the FSS didn’t provide them the data in the meeting yesterday.
In order to combat such malpractice, standing committee president Cheang Chi Keong told reporters both the committee and the government representatives have agreed to introduce a tougher penalty in the bill to revise the social security system.
If a beneficiary is found to cheat the FSS out of any kinds of the social security benefits by making false declarations or providing untrue information, the new law will give the FSS administrative committee power to terminate the beneficiary’s right to obtain all social security benefits for a maximum period of two years, depending on the severity of the case.
Social security benefits include age pension, disabled pension, unemployment allowance, sickness allowance, funeral allowance, as well as birth and marriage allowances that the standing committee requested the government to retain in the new social security system.
At the same time, the beneficiary is required to return all the subsidies received as a result of the fraud.
Cheang Chi Keong said if the case is “exceptionally serious”, the FSS can transfer it to a judicial body straight away and the beneficiary could face criminal liabilities.
Yet, there is an appeal mechanism for the beneficiaries who don’t agree with the punishment.
Applications for the social security benefits can be lodged again after the penalty period ends, Cheang said.
According to the FSS information, the standing committee president told reporters there were a growing number of cases in which FSS beneficiaries applied and successfully got certain kinds of benefits despite they did not have the eligibility in reality.
Cheang Chi Keong said the two most serious cases were related to the unemployment and sickness allowances.
Under the existing regulations, the FSS can only oblige the beneficiaries to return the allowances in full amount and also disallow them to receive the same kind of social security benefit they had previously obtained improperly in the next one to two years.
Cheang Chi Keong said a tougher penalty is necessary in order to effectively prevent the fraud that “misuses public funds and minimize the opportunities to help the people who truly need the social security benefits”.
In 2008, some 26,000 people collected age pension amounting to MOP360 million. The number of beneficiaries jumped to 32,000 in 2009.
The next meeting to continue discussions on the bill will be held at 3.30pm on Thursday at the Legislative Assembly.
Central Saving System
On the other hand, the FSS has started yesterday to mail a notification to each of the 360,000 eligible Macau permanent residents informing that they have been included on the provisional list of the Central Saving System.
The residents do not need to complete any formalities after receiving the notifications.
It is expected that all mails will be arrived in the next three to four weeks. The list will also be released at the FSS website later.
Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen has said earlier that the SAR government will inject MOP10,000 as start-up capital into each of the accounts starting July 1. Account holders at or above 65 years old will be allowed to use the fund immediately.
A hotline 28523333 will be launched tomorrow to receive inquiries regarding the Central Saving System.