Assoc Prof Walter Theseira: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) over the past three years, what is the average duration between grant application and notification of decision for each of the major business grant schemes administered by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) targeted at local enterprises; (b) what is the average duration between successful conclusion of a grant-funded business project and reimbursement of grant funding from ESG; and (c) what has been done to improve application and reimbursement procedures to help businesses innovate while maintaining cashflow.
Written Answer by Minister for Trade & Industry Mr Chan Chun Sing
1. Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and our economic agencies adopt an enterprise-centric approach to support our companies to transform their business models, improve productivity and access new markets. This includes grants tailored to meet the needs of enterprises through the different stages of their growth.
2. In processing the applications and claims, ESG’s aim is to do so as efficiently and expeditiously as possible, while ensuring accountability and safeguarding the integrity of the system. Broadly, the time taken to process grant applications and claims depends on two main factors – how complex is the project and whether the company has provided the required information in a complete and timely manner.
3. We can expect processing time to be longer for grants that support projects that are more complex or require more customisation. For example, the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) covers a wide range of supportable areas, from business strategy to automation. Each grant is tailored to meet the company’s needs. This means that each grant application will have its unique set of objectives, scope and cost components.
4. Not surprisingly, it takes longer to approve EDG applications compared to more standard applications under schemes like Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) and Market Readiness and Assistance (MRA). The average duration for EDG is 7 weeks versus 4 weeks for PSG and MRA. For around 10% of applications which are more straightforward, the company will receive approval in about a week. This includes the time taken for applicants to respond to clarifications and to submit a complete set of documentation to ESG.
5. That brings me to the second factor, which is the completeness of information submitted by companies. Some companies readily provide the required information, which makes it quicker to process their applications and claims. However, when the documentation provided is not complete, ESG has a duty to clarify and check before approving the applications or disbursing public funds for the claims. This will inevitably slow down the process.
6. The average duration between submission of final claims and grant disbursement is between 7 to 10 weeks across the three schemes. Where the documentation provided is clear and complete, disbursements can be made within 2 weeks.
7. To help businesses better manage their cashflow, ESG will exercise flexibility in the grant disbursement schedule while ensuring that the final grant amounts are accurately disbursed. For EDG projects with high upfront costs, ESG may disburse the grant in stages according to project implementation milestones. In addition, government agencies have started using PayNow Corporate to speed up payments to businesses. ESG is planning to do likewise for EDG, MRA and PSG so that companies can receive the disbursements more quickly. We are also open to other suggestions on how ESG can further improve its application and claims process, to help companies during these difficult times.