HPB loyalty programme and National Steps Challenge criticised by AGO


The Auditor-General Office (AGO) data analysis and test checks on HPB’s loyalty programme transactions from 1 April 2018 to 30 June 2020 found lapses in the management of loyalty programme member accounts.  

The loyalty programme was launched by HPB in November 2017 and allows members to earn and accumulate health points through the Healthy 365 application when they participate in HPB’s key programmes.  Loyalty programme members can use the healthpoints to redeem eVouchers and HPB will then reimburse the merchants the value of the eVouchers used by members.

However, the check by AGO found lapses in the creation and maintenance of loyalty programme accounts, and manual adjustments of healthpoints and rewards, along with manual monitoring and suspension of loyalty programme accounts. According to AGO, these weaknesses in features could expose HPB to the risk of individuals gaming the system by making use of ineligible or fictitious accounts to earn healthpoints and redeem rewards to make unauthorised adjustments. This could then result in HPB making payments for unauthorised or ineligible transactions.

AGO also found 594 accounts belonging to deceased persons as part of the checks. These accounts were used to earn health points and redeem rewards, and 139 of these accounts were created after the death of date. A total of SG$14,900 worth of health points was accumulated by these accounts, of which SG$6300 had since been redeemed and paid for by HPB. AGO said this happened because HPB did not have guidelines on the monitoring and deactivation of loyalty programme accounts belonging to deceased persons.

AGO also said there were also no system checks in place to prevent the creation of loyalty programme accounts using NRIC numbers of deceased person.

HPB has since blocked 594 accounts belonging to deceased person and lodged a police report. It also conducts monthly manual checks to identify and block accounts belonging to deceased persons from March 2021.

HPB said that from July 2021 it would automate such checks. In addition, HPB also amended the loyalty point terms and conditions on its website to state that in an event of death or renouncement of SG citizenship, unredeemed points will automatically be forfeited and cannot be transferred to others.HPB told AGO that it will also be conducting a one-time clean-up exercise to ascertain the full extent of the amount overpaid arising from unauthorised use of loyalty programme accounts of deceised person.

HPB used two IT systems to manage the healthpoint and rewards for the loyalty programme accounts. But AGO noted there were no controls built into the systems to require approval by another person before manual adjustment. In addition there were either no activity logs in the adjustment made or logs did not capture critical information such as users who made the adjustment for effective reviews to be carried out.

A total of 0.41 million manual adjustments amounting to about SG$0.49 million were made in the IT system from 1 April 2018 to 30 June 2020.

At the time of audit in December 2020, a total of 72 users comprising staff from HPB and two external vendors were given access rights to make manual adjustments.

HPB has said that one of the systems has already since been replaced by a new system which generates activity logs on manual adjustments of health points to enable monthly reviews to be carried out. This was in place from June 2021. As for the other system, it would also be replaced by a new system that would automatically log changes for quarterly reviews and will be implemented by July 2021.

National Steps Challenge lapse

AGO’s tests on fitness trackers in November 2020 found that 268,191 excess trackers with a value of SG$4.26 million was purchased for the National Steps Challenge season one to five and were not put in use although the season had ended between one and five years earlier.

According to the AGO, excess trackers not put to use by HPB resulted in “significant sum of public funds wasted” and the usability of these trackers would deteriorate over time.

HPB explained that the main cause for the excess trackers was over procurement due to overestimation of demand. While excess trackers were not given out, HPB said it was challenging to achieve zero wastage as the trackers would have reached the end of useful life after two years and could not be utilised after.

HPB also informed AGO that moving forward it would plan for purchase of trackers based on projected percentage of participants likely to collect them, and it would adopt an on-demand basis when purchasing additional trackers to minimise excess stock. This new revised planning and purchasing strategy would be implemented from October 2021 for the National Steps Challenge season six onwards.