Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ren Ci mishandled charity donations like in Durai's NKF Scandal?

Here it comes. One inquiry after another. First it was the scandal at NKF, then Youth Challenge, now it is the Ren Ci charity organisation. The Ministry of Health (MOH) is conducting an inquiry into Ren Ci after discovering possible irregularities in certain financial transactions between Ren Ci and some external organisations in an earlier audit review into the charity’s past dealings.

In the NKF saga, Mr TT Durai admitted in court for using public donation money meant for kidney patients to fatten himself with a $600,000 salary (which was claimed by Mrs Goh Chok Tong to be ‘peanuts’ for someone who was able to lead a top class healthcare organisation) for 3 years and lead an extravagant lifestyle which included luxurious toilet fittings, a gold-plated tap and first-class air travel.

Similarly, the external audit and the authorities in The Youth Challenge scandal, on the other hand, discovered Mr Vincent Lam's total annual remuneration of $248,867 which ended last year, was more than half of total donations and other income earned by the charity.

Both scandals have resulted in serious public backlash especially in the case of NKF where some 6800 people cancelled their monthly contributions stating they did not want to pay for “the CEO’s luxury”. An online petition for Durai’s resignation drew some 40,000 people, forcing the government to respond swiftly before the blame be shifted to the MOH.

Over the past 2 years, we have already seen a significant drop in public donations to charity institutions. Singaporeans do not trust them as readily as before and it becomes harder for these organisations to raise public funds to support its charity programmes.

What the government does now is correct. We should not allow a similar mistake to be made twice. By initiating a public inquiry into the accounts of Ren Ci while continuing to subsidise all patient care services through MOH until Ren Ci’s IPC status gets reinstated, it should gain public trust from Singaporeans for the transparency and good governance in the handling of this matter.

However, with the latest event going on, I believe many donors who are already very cautious with their donation money, would prefer to be ‘safe than sorry’ and be even more unwilling to donate whether or not Ren Ci is found guilty of mishandling of public funds. The end result? The reputation of charities continues to plunge and their beneficiaries suffer.

We all know charities are social pillars of the society and have a social responsibility to the donors but I am appealing to all Singaporeans that as much as we condone malpractices, we should see this issue in perspective and not let such unfortunate events dampen the spirit of magnanimity. The beneficiaries should really not be the ones paying the price for the fault of the system or the few “bad eggs” in it.


George said...

In my view the onus is on the charitable organisations to regain the public's trust.

The latter has always been taking it at face value that nothing untoward can happen in a squeaky clean country like ours, as exemplified by the constantly repeated rigorously clean govt. Citizens have been taking for granted that such govt backed organisations as the NKF and Ren ci to name two, cannot be anything but being properly run. One is known by the company he keeps as the saying goes.

Well that illusion is now gone, shayttered, people now know that that is not the case, their presumption is just that, a presumption!

In fact, I would say that if a lesson needs to be learnt by all it is that absolutely NOTHING should be taken for granted, that citizens must be both discriminating and critical in how they give and who they give thier donations to, in order not to be taken for another ride. Human nature tend to be weak when it comes to money -it's never enough, however much they are paid and however noble their cause.

To keep charity honest, it must in fact always be like the buddhist monk who seek only enough to meet his immediate needs.

Anonymous said...

dennis foo, of devil's bar, was right to can't mix business with spirituality. basically, the former is the pursue of materialism and the latter, the containment of materialism. and spiritual leaders are not people who succumb to materialism and the ways of mammon. at best, they seek the 'middle path'. they are guides to the marginalized and the losers in society and are living proof that you can live meaningful lives apart from the deception of riches.
but when spiritual leaders desire the role of a ' successful CEO'( their 'spirituality' becomes the justification) or and living like one too, then, their faith loses substance or salt.
not only does it betray and corrupt its own faith, they also mislead their flocks to pursue the 'high life' instead of the 'heavenly life'.

the buddhist 'middle path' is about balance. a person who drives a luxurious lexus and lives the 'high life' compare to someone who drives a humble hyundai and lives in hdb can hardly be that 'balance'.
for the rich, by virtue of their command of wealth, will always impose its will on those who lack. there is no 'balance' there. whereas, the middle path avoid excesses and exploitation.

spiritual leaders must show the way in the way they live their lives. and often, it is a common life made successful.