CAD and COC Move On… to Others
Making clear that the public realises that the CAD is not focusing on any one religion, a Hindu temple and its CEO are now in its scope. Religious organisations all over Singapore are now scrambling to make sure books and vouchers are in order if they have not done so the minute Ming Yi was busted.
All in all, a good thing for the whistleblowers to have alerted the authorities. It takes commendable moral courage to stand up and complain about someone from your own church, temple or mosque. Unless the whistleblower is from another church, temple of mosuqe and the complaint was not totally based on civic responsibility but maybe also mixed up with a bit of personal issues. For example, some speculated that the CHC’s Pandora’s Box was exacerbated by some people from a rival church, eager to see CHC’s leaders humbled. The latest religious organisation scrutinised for financial irregularities won’t be the last. That’s the thing with people, regardless of race, language or religion, there will always be greedy people.
Hindu temple CEO under investigation
05:55 AM Jul 23, 2010
by Imelda Saad Aziz, Today
SINGAPORE – The financial affairs of another religious entity have been referred to the police for investigation, close to four months after an inquiry was launched by the Commissioner of Charities (COC).
And following its report to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) on June 3, the charity regulator is now seeking to remove the man who it alleges had effectively “sole control” at the Sri Siva Krishna Temple in Marsiling Rise.
Mr A Sivalingam had voluntarily resigned on May 6 as the temple’s president, but was elected barely two weeks later – while the inquiry was still being conducted – as the temple’s adviser and chief executive officer.
The COC is concerned about his involvement in the temple after finding alleged “financial irregularities and serious lapses in the governance and management” of the temple.
These include suspected forgery of payment vouchers – for instance, payments purported to have been made but not received by the vendor – and misappropriation of the temple’s funds. Donations to the temple were allegedly not accounted for in its records; donation receipt books were also said to be missing.
The transactions took place between January 2007 and July 2008, before a pro-tem committee set up by the Hindu Endowment Board (HEB) took charge of the financial affairs of the temple. HEB had first raised the red flag to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports in July last year.
While the temple had a management committee, the COC claimed Mr Sivalingam had “sole custody of the donation monies and gold received by the temple” and also “maintained the accounting records, approved contracts/purchases and disbursed cash/cheques”.
“There was a severe lack of segregation of duties, and checks and balances,” the COC’s office said in a press release yesterday.
The temple has been a registered society since 1970 and a charity since 1998. It is also used for social gatherings, with yoga classes being organised on Saturdays. Its annual income for the 2007 financial year was $350,000, mainly from donations. Its net assets are valued at $2.7 million.
When contacted yesterday, the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (Community Development, Youth and Sports) said the case showed the need for corporate governance “in all forms of organisations”. Mr Seah Kian Peng said: “Even in religious institutions, the need for checks and balances are important. Be it public money or contributions by members, accountability and transparency are important.”
He described the lapses cited in the inquiry as “fundamental flaws”.
Besides this case, for which the police confirmed it has commenced investigation, the CAD is also looking into the alleged misuse of funds at City Harvest Church. Some 20 people have been questioned.
Last year, Ren Ci Hospital founder Ming Yi and his former aide were convicted for falsifying payment vouchers and giving false information to the COC. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICIA WONG
– Any representation regarding COC’s intention to remove Mr Sivalingam as a charity trustee should be submitted by Aug 22 via firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to the Office of the Commissioner of Charities at 512 Thomson Road MCYS Building Singapore 298136.