Saturday, July 16, 2005

On The NKF

Despite the distance from the island of Singapore, I could still feel the issues emanating from the recent NKF expose about the CEO's pay, the problem of corporate transparency and the resulting public reactions and even the vandalism than ensued the court case.

For those who do not know, the National Kidney Foundation is the largest charity organization in Singapore. Sometime in April 2004, there was an article written by a journalist Susan Long for the powerful newspaper The Straits Times, a publication by the government backed Singapore Press Holdings. The dispute was because of the implied extravagance of the CEO installing gold taps and flying first class using public donations. In trying to avoid negative public reactions over the implied negativity surrounding the use of public funds, the CEO, TT Durai launched a lawsuit against SPH for the publication. The case which was supposed to last 10 days starting from last week ended in two days after severe questioning of the CEO by a top lawyer Senior Counsel Davinder Singh (see picture). After two days, the NKF decided to drop the lawsuit, and under pressure by public sentiment, the CEO and the entire Board of Directors as well as the patron, Mrs Goh Chok Tong all resigned in order to pave the way for new people.

The entire saga has brought more negative perceptions on how public money is being spent by charities in Singapore. Chances are, such news are not good for social help organizations as it would mean they are viewed firstly with suspicion rather than trust. As the saying goes, it takes just one bad apple spoils the rest.

A friend emailed a funny poster which I attach for your laughs. The actual court case is of course not funny.

Some links for you to refer to:

I have never had a good impression of the way the NKF conducts their canvassing for funds. However, it is always important to understand that we are not angels ourselves. It it is possible for anyone of us to run the NKF, under similar political and corporate conditioning the CEO TT Durai have to work in, will any of us have behaved differently?

Let us play with a scenario: If for example, Pay CEO A $25k a month and he managed to bring in $100million a year. Pay CEO B $2.5k a month only managed to canvass for $100,000 only per year, which CEO will you employ? The end result, who suffers, the patients? A crazy ideal would be let the CEO work for free, and bring in multi-millions every year. Such an ideal world does not exist. The best thing would be to pay just wages according to the work cut out for him. In terms of corporate governance, as a Christian, it should not make a difference in how he/she behaves. He/She should do his/her utmost for the Lord no matter what organization he/she work for. For that matter, whether the person is a office manager, a doctor, a lawyer, a Church worker or simply a shop assistant, the work cut out should be discharged in a manner honouring to the Lord. As for wages, he/she should be paid appropriately according to the work cut out. Underpaying anyone is a sin!
This is one of the problems of human rationalising. How will we ever grow up in our understanding of corporate governance? How will we ever have a good balance of involving top corporate management into non-profit organizations? A clue to unravelling this problem is not to distinguish too sharply any organization in the first place. That is because underneath each job title, underneath each organizational umbrella is a normal human being like you and me, who needed to breathe, who needs to eat and drink, who has families and loved ones to care and provide for. The issue of paying someone justly is easier said than done. Having said that, it does not mean who stop at this point and don't do anything. On the contrary we should encourage and even applaud those who honestly tried to improve things. That is why Christian community ought to learn from one another the perceptions in place, and the rationale behind each decision to be made.

For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages. (1 Tim 5:18)

Please do not underpay the pastor or the Church worker. It is one thing to work by faith. It is another not to pay when an organization can afford to. Let the discussion go on.


1 comment:

YAPdates said...

Since the posting, predictably there has been a backlash from the Singapore public on the NKF issue. The title of the news feed says it all

"Student volunteers abused, flag day sales fall by 30% after NKF saga" (ChannelNewsAsia 23 July 2005)


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