Charities: No backlash expected

In the wake of the City Harvest Church fund-misuse scandal, many other charities gave the assurance that they have the proper processes in place to ensure that they are transparent with their finances.

They also believe that the City Harvest incident is unlikely to affect their donation drives.

On Wednesday, five of the church's leaders, including founder Kong Hee, were charged with misappropriating funds worth $50.6 million. Of this, $24 million was misused from the church's building fund, largely to fund the music career of singer Ho Yeow Sun, Kong's wife.

Many charities told my paper they are not worried about backlash from the incident.

Mrs Noor Quek, president of the Breast Cancer Foundation, said: "We don't believe we will be adversely affected. We abide by the rules and believe in transparency and accountability.

"Donors should know how the funds have been applied, and be able to see the outcome."

Mr Alfred Tan, the executive director of the Singapore Children's Society, said that he is not worried that confidence in charities, including his, would be shaken.

He explained that the society's "processes to ensure transparency in its finances have been in place for a long time".

He hopes "people see (the City Harvest) case as an exception".

The National Council of Social Service, a statutory board and an umbrella body for 400 voluntary welfare organisations, said it views the City Harvest incident "as a very isolated case".

"We don't sense that there would be an impact on the social- services sector," a spokesman said.

Some charities are also taking steps to look into transparency issues. The Taoist Federation said it will soon be rolling out a programme to teach the more than 500 Taoist charities under it about corporate governance.

It added that the programme had been planned for a year and its rollout is not in response to the City Harvest scandal.

Faith Community Baptist Church said it believes "good governance brings protection and security to our members".

Its spokesman said that with its 10-member council and various sub-committees, "our members are assured that (the church) is well-managed, well-governed and operated to ensure its effectiveness, credibility and sustainability".

Other mega-churches, including New Creation Church and Lighthouse Evangelism, declined to comment.

A spokesman for the Office of Commissioner of Charities said a "current priority" is to ensure that charities are able to meet the code of good governance and practices which was reviewed in January last year.

One key change in the code discourages paid staff or volunteers involved in the day-to-day running of a charity from being appointed to the board.

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