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5 religious groups got $130m last year

GOD and giving go together. And five of the richest religious groups here collected about $130 million in donations last year.
Theresa Tan & Arlina Arshad

Mon, Oct 29, 2007
The Straits Times

GOD and giving go together. And five of the richest religious groups here collected about $130 million in donations last year.

Leading the pack is the independent New Creation Church, with an income of $42.8 million for its financial year that ended in March.

Besides the New Creation Church, six other religious groups made the news last week when the Commissioner of Charities (COC) announced that he is sending auditors to check on them.

The seven - all with annual incomes of over $10 million - were chosen for the COC's first 'governance review' as they had the largest income among the charities under the COC's direct purview.

The COC said the review, which is expected to be completed by June next year, is part of an ongoing effort to regularly assess charities and improve the way they are run.

The move is significant because this is the first time the COC is focusing such attention on religious groups.

The seven are: Campus Crusade Asia Limited, City Harvest Church, Faith Community Baptist Church, Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, New Creation Church and Trinity Christian Centre.

Of the seven groups, only the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery at Bright Hill Road did not reply to The Straits Times' queries.

The Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple at Waterloo Street declined to reveal its income, but said it has 'extensive' security measures to guard donations.

On Thursday, when The Straits Times visited the temple, there were at least four security guards watching over donation boxes at the temple.

The temple also stands out as it donates at least 80 per cent of its income to charitable causes, such as funding bursaries.

One of its trustees, Mr Anand Karthigesu, told The Straits Times that the temple's expenses form 'a very small fraction' of income.

Meanwhile, money collected by the churches interviewed goes to funding church activities and operations.

Some of these churches have over 100 staff. For instance, the Trinity Christian Centre has about 160 staff.

Believers such as Mr Ian Tham, who attends the New Creation Church, welcome the review.

He said: 'Such reviews would give the public and church members confidence that things are done properly. If there are any lapses or blind-spots, we can fix them.'

Some churches recently urged the Charity Council, which advises the COC, to let them be governed separately from secular charities.

In particular, they were concerned about a new draft code of governance that asks them to separate their board and management staff.

These churches also argued that offerings by members were not equivalent to public donations.

Separately, the Education Ministry is also conducting a similar review on educational groups under its charge.

It has hired Ernst & Young Associates to look into the internal controls, among other areas, at the Singapore Institute of Management and the Management Development Institute of Singapore.

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