SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is unaware of any harm arising as a result of a legal lapse involving electronic Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) forms, which went undetected for nearly a year. 

The lapse occurred even though the form was approved for deployment by MSF through an “internal proofreading and vetting process”, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Eric Chua said in parliament on Tuesday (Apr 2).

A Bill was passed in parliament on Tuesday to retroactively validate these LPAs and remove any uncertainty about their validity. 

About 87,000 electronic LPA documents were found to be lacking a required statement that could leave them open to a potential legal challenge, MSF announced last month.

The affected donors do not need to remake their LPAs, and no action is required by members of public, the ministry said at the time. LPA documents made through the hardcopy process are not affected. 

An LPA allows an appointed person, or donees, to make medical and financial decisions on behalf of another individual should they lose mental capacity. 

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Mr Chua said MSF is “not aware of any actual harm suffered by donees or donors”. 

Many of those who made LPAs continue to have mental capacity, so their donees do not need to act on their behalf yet, he added. 

“It is possible that some donees have begun to exercise the powers in some of the affected electronic LPAs, but we are not aware of any challenge to the exercise of those powers by third parties,” he said.

The electronic LPA forms were prepared by the staff of the Office of the Public Guardian, which is an agency under MSF that is responsible for safeguarding the interests of individuals who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. 

The forms were then vetted by the Public Guardian, as well as by a separate legal unit. 

“Unfortunately, no system of process checks can be 100 per cent accurate, as this case shows,” said Mr Chua.

He added that the electronic LPA forms go through various parties, including certificate issuers who are familiar with the hardcopy forms, such as lawyers or doctors.

“Despite this, it took nearly a year before a member of the public noticed the difference and wrote in to enquire.” 

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