SINGAPORE: In the wake of the court case involving five leaders of City Harvest Church, the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre said charities need to pay closer attention to their leadership.
The national body, which promotes philanthropy and volunteerism in Singapore, is confident that donors will continue to give generously to charities.
The past few years have seen several charities come under fire over the misuse of public funds. From revelations about former National Kidney Foundation chief T T Durai’s pay and perks in 2005, to unauthorised loans made by Ren Ci hospital ex—CEO Ming Yi in 2007.
In November 2007, Singapore’s Charity Council introduced the code of governance to ensure accountability and boost confidence in the charity sector.
In 2011, the code was fine—tuned to provide greater clarity and compliance. This included tightening the distinction of roles between board and staff members. The code also makes clear that the salaries of the three highest paid staff should be disclosed for large charities that receive S$10 million or more.
The court case involving five senior members of City Harvest Church over alleged misuse of church funds has begged the question of whether the code needs further tightening.
Laurence Lien, CEO of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, said: "I don’t think we should have a knee jerk reaction to this and just decide that we need to tighten code of governance. At the end of the day, it boils down to the leaders who are leading the organisation.
"You can have whatever code in place. If the leaders ignore the code and do not comply, which I believe in this case happened, no code, whatever the type, is going to do the job."
Mr Lien said the case is a wake—up call for charities to take planned leadership succession more seriously, and added that the case should not have a long—term impact on charitable donation.
He said: "I think lots of people who work in the charity sector still do extremely good work. Many charities still practice good governance. And donors by and large are discerning, so I’m confident they will continue to give generously to charities."
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