Ren Ci flouted guidelines: Charity Council head
By Theresa Tan
REN CI Hospital and Medicare Centre, now under probe for financial irregularities, had contravened certain guidelines on how charities should be run when it gave out interest-free loans.
For example, under the new Code of Governance for charities and Institutions of a Public Character (IPC), it was required to obtain board approval for any loans made by the charity, said Mrs Fang Ai Lian, chairman of the Charity Council, on Monday.
Mrs Fang told the media at the launch of the Code: 'What was done was not something in the best interest of the charity.'
Besides, there was a conflict of interest in Ren Ci's case as its honorary chief executive, Venerable Ming Yi, is one of the owners of a business that Ren Ci lent money to, she pointed out.
The Health Ministry is now probing Ren Ci, one of Singapore's largest charities, after it discovered that it has given out millions of dollars in interest-free loans to various companies. Some of these loans were made, apparently, without board approval.
Also, there were discrepancies between what the charity recorded it had lent and what the companies involved recorded it had borrowed.
Under the new Code, there should be procedures to handle conflict of interest situations, for example, when a board member has vested interest in businesses the charity deals with.
One guideline is that the board member should not vote on the matter or take part in discussions regarding the business.
Also read New Code of Governance for charities and IPCs
Nov 26, 2007
New code of governance for charities and IPCs
IGNORANCE of best practices can no longer be an excuse for charities that don't keep their house in order.
A comprehensive set of guidelines on how these custodians of public donations should run themselves was released on Monday.
They range from how charities should manage programmes and raise funds to who should sit on their boards.
The code of governance for charities and Institutions of Public Character was drafted and finalised by the Charity Council after extensive public feedback.
It marks the first time that guidelines have been spelt out for all registered charities in Singapore, which are grouped according to the arts and heritage, community, education, health, religion, sports, social service and youth.
While some, like the social service sector, had their own codes of governance, others, such as religious groups, had none.
With such an overarching document looming, feedback to the draft was passionate.
A public consultation exercise between June and August drew response from more than 700 charities, out of a total of about 1,900 in Singapore.
The council received 1,000 individual views and 200 written responses.
It considered the feedback, and made the code 'less onerous' for charities to implement, said chairman Fang Ai Lian.
For instance, the guideline now allows up to a third of the board to be made up of paid staff.
In its draft, the council had proposed that the board should be totally separate from its executive management.
But religious charities and many small arts and sports groups asked for leeway on this, said Mr Rajaram Ramiah, a lawyer who sits on the council.