theonlinecitizen

a community of singaporeans

HDB’s mistake but she’s made to pay – 4 years later

Posted by theonlinecitizen on January 11, 2008

By Leong Sze Hian

A close friend whom I have known for about 20 years, a 75 year-old widow, has received a registered letter from the HDB, informing her that “HDB had mistakenly paid her the sum of $18,000 under the impression that she was eligible for the said sum under the Hawker Centres Upgrading Programme”.

If not for the HDB’s mistake, she would not have given up her hawker stall four years ago.

HDB’s letter ended with “We hereby demand you pay back the sum of $ 18,000 to HDB within 21 days from the date of this letter, failing which we have instructions to commence legal action without further reference”.

Since it was the HDB’s mistake, the HDB should try to give her back the hawker stall which she had been renting for more than 10 years.

About a month ago, an officer from the National Environment Agency (NEA), came to her house at 8 a.m., without any prior notice or appointment, to tell her that she had to pay back the $ 18,000.

After she asked as to whether she could have her stall to rent again, an application for hawker stall rental form was received by her in the mail, without any covering letter.

She duly completed the application form and sent it to the NEA office.

Someone from the NEA subsequently called her to say that no stall was available yet.

I feel that the HDB’s action by sending the registered letter of demand to an illiterate 75 year-old Singaporean, is rather high-handed, considering the chain of events described above.

This has caused undue stress to her.

As she doesn’t mind waiting until a stall is available for her to rent again, I would like to suggest that the HDB consider the possibility of delaying their legal action.

She gave up her livelihood of over 20 years as a hawker, in exchange for $18,000.

Since it was the HDB’s mistake, I think they should be flexible, and try to give her a stall, before demanding a lump sum payment back from her.

If the HDB can take four years to discover their mistake, I think they should at least give more time for her to wait for a rental stall.

By the way, what if she had already spent the $ 18,000 on her medical expenses over the last four years ?

So, no stall, no livelihood, and now no more money too.

Read TODAY’s report on the case.

Read also “Why pay?” by The Itch To Write.

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23 Responses to “HDB’s mistake but she’s made to pay – 4 years later”

  1. Daniel said

    That shows how ‘graceful’ is our government when it comes to collecting $$$$.
    A money-loving government can never be graceful with or without LKY. It can only be graveful.

  2. LifesLikeThat said

    There should be some statutes of limitations on govt agencies penalising others for their (govt agencies) mistakes.

    And it is incredible that HDB took 4 years to discover the mistake.

    They should be GRACIOUS enough to admit that it is their mistake and allow Mdm Lee some peace of mind.

    For goodness’ sake, she’s already 75 years old!

    No wonder MM Lee said we will take a long time to become a gracious society. With govt agencies behaving like loan sharks and hooligans, that indeed is true!

  3. Charles said

    Amazes me that our bureacracy can admit making a mistake (which was committed on their end) and yet demand the old lady to repay the sum.

    In other countries, there would be public outcry for an investigation into the said agency – aka HDB in this case. Who made the mistake? Why did such a mistake occurred? Who was responsible? etc etc.

    Singapore, truly unique…

  4. Gary Teoh said

    A gracious society, pui !

  5. aygee said

    its the same type of mistake for not auditing EDB for 40+ years… and only realising many “errors” in the books.

    I wonder how that one has progressed. anything brought up to public scrutiny yet?

  6. aygee said

    Compare what HDB is doing to this lady – versus their vision and mission statements.

    As taken from their website…

    Vision – An outstanding organisation with people committed to fulfilling aspirations for homes and communities all are proud of

    Mission:
    – We provide affordable homes of quality and value.
    – We create vibrant and sustainable towns.
    – We promote the building of active and cohesive communities.
    – We inspire and enable all staff to give of their best.

    Like many of our govt bodies, they forgot all of these statements they come out with – except – to be profitable.

    only in Singapore are govt bodies having more than enough money to go out and invest.

  7. ah_pui said

    Wouldn’t it be fair to say that HDB is responsible for her loss of profits for the past 4 years? As if not for HDB’s mistake, she wouldn’t have given up the stall. So assuming the profits for the stall is $500 a month (after stall rental, costs etc), the profit that could be had for the past 4 years is 24k. And so, after deducting the 18k, HDB will need to pay her 6k…Just a thought…

  8. Robert HO said

    RH:
    1. I will not try to draw insights into this case except to express my admiration, now up tenfold, of Mr LEONG Sze Hian, that a man of his intellect, capabilities, career and achievements can still have as a friend a 75 year old illiterate widow. A true man of the people, now rare and non-existent among the PAP elites.

    2. In the rarefied elite world of the PAP, they mix only with other, similar Beautiful People, doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc, and would not even shake hands with a fishmonger for votes without thoroughly scrubbing her hands after [now spun as to stay clean for subsequent handshakes]. SO THEY HAVE ABOUT AS MUCH EMPATHY WITH US OR UNDERSTAND OUR LIVES AND CONCERNS AS THEY DO ABOUT SAY, AMOEBA. This is the main reason why they are FAILURES as Politicians [who must be extremely empathetic], Human Beings [who must be able to feel for others, sometimes even other creatures], Thinkers [who must be able to put themselves mentally into others’ shoes to do any substantive thinking on social issues], Problem Solvers [who must be able UNDERSTAND the lives and concerns of people, not just in the mass but also as individuals].

    3. In this elite world of the Beautiful People, the LKYs crane their necks all the time to look for opportunities to visit the White House or 10 Downing Street or The Great Hall of the People, etc. They have big egos and a sense of their own importance and their place in history. These LKYs aspire to deliver, one day, a standing ovation Speech to a Joint Session of Congress like Tony BLAIR got for sending his British soldiers to die in Iraq. Craning their necks thus, they cannot at the same time look down to us otherwise it causes a painful crick in the neck. So they don’t look at us. Thus, we are just to be “managed” as “digits”. It is always difficult to love humanity or people in the mass but the PAP elites may not even love their own loved ones as well, since a certain type of intellect and emotional detachment can create a totally selfish person who can often succeed, through sheer selfishness, and thus climb high into the elite PAP world. A possible proof of this is when, a few years ago, when the Straits Times was fawning over a LKY book, quoted LKY as saying of his wife when his car went into a ditch “…as she was then with HER child…”. Note that LKY did not say OUR child but HER child, almost as if he had nothing to do with it. Possible Freudian slip that proves he is so thoroughly selfish he does not even consider his wife and unborn son LHL as being of much relation to him. A 100% selfish person can often succeed because he has no compassion for his competitors or even colleagues [LIM Chin Siong whom he betrayed to supplant as PM] to hold back his march to the top. He can eliminate any competition RUTHLESSLY without the pang of conscience or guilt. Pay himself the highest ‘salary’ in the world. Build a loyal, PERSONAL, system around HIMSELF, warping the entire country in the process and corrupting every institution to his will. Delude and lie to himself [unconsciously, of course] that he is doing all this for the good of others like us. Develop the self confidence that he is never wrong or even bad, that he cannot be bad. Cheat in elections without a twinge of remorse or guilt because he CANNOT be bad or wrong. Face down foreign critics with aplomb using a mass of half truths and whole lies that the ill-prepared journalists seldom follow up or even catch. Sound familiar? Yes, a selfish man can go far in this unfair world.

    4. If it were not for the simple fact that Singapore is such a tiny islet and therefore so easy to manage, these ‘politicians’ would have been thrown out long ago for being such Failures. Due to tinyness, every problem is tiny and easy to manage. Due to high density living like Hongkong, quality of life is high automatically and everything is efficient without even trying. Just 1 example, bus stops can be sited 500 metres apart and buses come every 15 minutes and still be profitable. Etc, etc. Foreign investors are lured here by cash grants, taxfree decades, even subsidised land. The PAP media then trumpets each investment here as an endorsement of LKY LHL PAP. You know the rest.

    5. To end, thank God for Mr LEONG. Thank the Devil for LKY.

  9. Unfair said

    Another honest mistake from he ‘we don’t make mistakes’ bunch. Luckily for the auntie, it’s only $18,000, not $388 million. But then again, no one in IDA, the ministry or Yeo Cheow Tong was asked to cough up the hundreds of millions.

  10. Singapore Resident said

    HDB has obviously learnt from NLB who recovered overdue fine from as far back as 7 yrs…
    i better re-check my IPPT results to make sure i “deserved” the monetary reward i got for recent test.

  11. sarek_home said

    Now it is exposed to the public, some mp will step in and HDB will find a settlement.

  12. Crazy Dog said

    Wah.. what a gracious government. Can she ask the government to pay for the lost of income ??? Since this is exposed, some MP will do something for her lah….

  13. Daniel said

    Is MP now stand for Money People who are more interested in money than helping citizen. Is it money that drive them to become MP ?

  14. K.C said

    If i’m not wrong, HDB is the highest paying employer in singapore, whether private or civil service.

  15. Jie Kai said

    My goodness, are the lawyers sleeping or something? It seems they all can’t distinguish between their public law and their private law. There is no way you can raise estoppel here- the 18,000 compensation was made under an ex gratia scheme. There is NO contract between the old lady and the HDB and NO consideration involved. HELLO???!!!!!!

    You could try judicial review and an argument of “substantive legitimate expectations”. This works as a sort of public law estoppel ( although strictly speaking it isn’t) in British public law. Any lawyers around here should get up to scratch with the doctrine legitimate substantive expectations by reading Paul Craig’s Administrative Law and the case Ex parte Coughlan.

  16. Jie Kai said

    it’s “substantive legitimate expectations”, if anyone here is in doubt.

  17. money face said

    what can they do to old auntie? bankrupt her if she can’t pay? sent her to jail? don’t care about these blood sucker – any drastic action taken on her will cause more public outcry on these bloody money suckers. may these idiots be curse on earth and in hell.

  18. xtrocious said

    Jie Kai – this is what we call “bullying” by pulling a fast one on an old lady…sigh

    And even if they can take legal action, isn’t there a “reasonable” time frame that they must observe or can they suka suka sue you to recover something they mistakenly paid out 20, 50 or 100 years ago?

  19. ganchau said

    Does anyone remember the breakdown of computer system and the Public Utilities Board had a backlog of unpaid bills, simply because the Board could not bill the users?

    As a result, many of the expats left the country, laughing all the way back to their country. They had saved thousands of dollars in unpaid water, gas and electrical bills!

    Yet, unfortunate people like me were penalised because my tenants had left unpaid bills in the flat they rented from me. The flat was shared by 3 Malaysians and since they were trusted friends of someone I know very well, I allowed my name to be continued to be used in the account. When I wrote to the PUB that it was impossible for me to stay at two places at any one time, the PUB refused to entertain my explanation.

    “Just follow law”. Yet, what happened to the PUB? Who was responsible for the huge amount of unpaid bills that expatriates should have paid.? Were these people forgiven? If they could be forgiven, why would the likes of me be penalised? I am still struggling to pay the $1600 bill by instalment!

  20. sleong said

    Oh dear, we have elected a government that is always telling people on no matter what money issue, that as long as they fail to pay it has “instructions to commence legal action without further reference” and this, all over the place…. And the ones who got hit the most are the poor and illiterate….

    Look out for the new ERPs, for a $1 short in your cashcard, you may end up in court..all that fuss..what a way to spend taxpayers’ money…meanwhile the poor will get their PUB switched off and live in total darkness…what is the logic of it all….???

  21. Kenneth said

    I think our goverment is placing too much emphasis on external attributes in finding leaders and very little in chracter traits. Give a choice between the most brilliant man on earth or a reasonbably intelectation man who loves his country I would select the later for the leader. I view that the leadership in singapore has lost love for the country or else they would be putting so much emphaisos on paying well. We are tought in schools of deeds of early leaders who sacrificed fo singapore. Who are patriots. I dont think patriots demand crazy pays.
    they more more than they take society.They sacrifieced build hosipitals, schools from their own pockets. I dont see that sacrafice anymore in our leaders.

  22. tri nam said

    tri nam…

    […]HDB’s mistake but she’s made to pay – 4 years later « theonlinecitizen[…]…

  23. Barbra said

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