Leong Mun Wai

Safeguards under complementary assessment framework to prevent abuse

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This was an Oral Question asked in Parliament by NCMP Mr Leong Mun Wai on 5th April 2022

Mr Leong Mun Wai asked the Minister for Manpower what are the safeguards being put in place under the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) to ensure that potential employment pass applicants are not abusing the system by circumventing the minimum requirements.

Dr Tan See Leng: We share the Member’s interest in safeguarding the integrity of the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) and preventing any abuse. I had covered a few aspects of how we will do so during MOM’s Committee of Supply Debate in March 2022, but will reiterate these points for a holistic answer.

Today, MOM takes a multi-pronged approach in enforcing our work pass requirements. Enforcement measures are already in place to guard against fraud in the areas of salary and qualifications, which are components of our current Employment Pass (EP) framework. MOM has screening capabilities to detect cases of fraud, including through data analytics and verification checks. This helps to sieve out fraudulent applications upstream, such as those who falsify salary or qualifications information. Downstream, we also conduct proactive checks to identify employers and work pass holders who breach our rules, for example, employers who declare a higher salary to meet work pass requirements but pay employees less than the declared amount. Some of these cases are surfaced by whistle blowers while others are detected through audits and inspections.

MOM imposes stiff penalties on errant employers and work pass holders. Offenders may be prosecuted for false declaration under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, which carries a fine of up to $20,000, up to two years’ imprisonment, or both, per charge. In addition, MOM will revoke the work passes of errant work pass holders and permanently bar them from employment in Singapore. In cases where employers were complicit, they may also have their work pass privileges suspended.

When COMPASS is introduced, it will take into account a wider set of individual- and firm-related attributes to assess an applicant’s complementarity. To ensure that COMPASS is effective, MOM will similarly put in place strong enforcement measures to ensure that employers do not circumvent its rules.

To ensure the authenticity of qualifications, MOM currently requires the submission of verification proof from a third-party screening organisation for selected work pass applications. Applications with unaccredited or false qualifications are rejected. With the introduction of COMPASS where qualifications directly contribute to an application’s score, we are reviewing the need for mandatory verification of qualifications declared in applications, and will share more details in due course.

We will also put in place verification checks to ensure that candidates claiming bonus points for the Shortage Occupation List are genuinely performing the job role in shortage. Candidates that relied on these bonus points to pass COMPASS will be issued an occupation-restricted EP. Their employers will also need to notify MOM if these EP holders need to be redeployed to a different job role, and the eligibility of the EP holders will be reassessed. MOM will take enforcement action if an employer is found to have deployed such EP holders in unrelated roles.

COMPASS is a significant move for MOM. I would like to assure Members that we will spare no effort to implement COMPASS well. MOM will always be on guard against actions that undermine our work pass framework, and will continually refine our enforcement measures to ward off any abuse. I also urge all companies to work with MOM to achieve the objectives of COMPASS – uplifting foreign workforce complementarity and diversity, while building up the local workforce. In the long run, this is the only way to sustain broad support for an open and connected economy.

Find out more about the team driving the Progress Singapore Party

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