If you remember, the City Harvest Church saga took 7 years to be resolved.
In 2010, the office of the Commissioner of Charities started investigating City Harvest for fraud.
Two years later, six individuals from the church were arrested and trials for their cases started.
Fast forward to 2017 and the case reached a conclusion with all six individuals serving prison.
Now, just one year after a religious institute’s investigation for ‘misuse of funds’ was concluded, another religious institute with the potential for the same scandal has appeared.
This time, it’s the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple at Serangoon Road
Here are 8 facts about the Sri Veerakaliamman Temple saga.
1. How it all began
On 30 Apr, the inquiry by Commissioner of Charities’ (COC) into Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple found ‘severe financial mismanagement’.
Three individuals are implicated in this saga.
R Selvaraju (Selvaraju), the Former management committee chairman. Sivakadacham (Siva), the current committee chairman and charity trustee.
And Ratha Krishnan Selvakumar (Kumar), the charity trustee and present secretary of the management committee.
It also revealed that the period of “severe mismanagement” is from Jan 2011 to Jul 2014.
2. Over 823 Uncrossed Cheques Issued Totalling $1.5 million
If you’re savvy with business, you’d know that crossed cheques are the way to go.
You can’t exchange them for cash and they must be deposited into the intended recipient’s bank account.
For uncrossed ones, anyone can exchange the cheques for cash at the bank.
It was found that the temple issued 823 uncrossed cheques amounting to S$1.5 million between 1 Jan 2011 and 31 Jul 2014.
Even better, 45 of the transactions amounting to more than S$227,000 were not issued to the names of the intended recipients.
And there’s no proof to show that these people received the money.
3. Unaccounted for Loans
And there’s more.
Documents showed that Kumar obtained loans of S$350,000 on behalf of the temple. The best part, he didn’t do it with the approval of the management committee.
Plus, there were no written agreement with the lenders.
The purpose of the loans were to pay 250 “beneficiaries” who helped out with the consecration ceremony back on 22 Jun 2014.
Again, there was no documentation to show if these beneficiaries received their money.
But there’s more.
4. Kumar supposed to pay back the loans but did not
So people went digging, and this is what they found.
In the management committee minutes of their meetings, Kumar was supposed to repay the loans.
However, it later turned out that he used the temple funds to make payment, and it was approved by key office bearers.
5. Made multiple payments to vendors
In the period between 1 Jan 2011 and 31 Jul 2014, the three individuals, Selvaraju, Siva and Kumar have to sign off together before the temple can make payment.
It was found that they have made duplicate payments to vendors, overpaying them by a huge margin with temple funds.
In addition, it was found that the temple had engaged two vendors, owned by Kumar’s relative, for an estimated transaction value of more than S$750,000.
For these transactions, there isn’t any proof that the temple asked around (for competitive quotes) before deciding on them.
6. Other incidents that showed poor management at the temple
There were times where Kumar received cash advances. They amount to S$18,000 via uncrossed cheques from the temple. However, there were no receipts to show what the money was used for.
Unauthorised write-off of staff loans
Unauthorised journal entries were found in the temple’s accounting system. $10,000 of staff loans were written off. And it was offset as a $10,000 increase in salary expenses. The committee also approved a loan of $5,000 to an employee who did not have a repayment plan for his outstanding loan.
No service contracts with intermediaries
The temple engaged individuals or intermediaries to purchase supplies and precious metals on their behalf. However, they don’t have a service contract with them. Also, the intermediaries do not have to get competitive quotes from different parties before making the transaction.
Insufficient financial functions
There was no SOP on how the management committee and employees should do their jobs. And there are no safeguards in place to prevent these people from using the funds for other things. For example, it was noted that donations collected for the building fund were not used for building works or renovation. Instead, it’s used for operating expenses.
In total, payments made by the temple that were not supported adequately with documentation amount to more than $500,000.
7. The three individuals have/will be been removed from their posts while investigations continue
You have to admit that all of the above sounds really dubious.
Multiple payments to vendors, conflict of interest, unauthorised loans that are then paid back by the temple.
The chairman, Siva, has been suspended from office. He is not allowed to manage or take part in any of the charity’s management and committee meetings.
The COC is looking to remove Kumar from his office as well. They found that he was previously convicted for criminal offences “involving elements of dishonesty”.
In addition, the COC said that they’ll take actions against Selvaraju if he take up any office within the temple.
The Hindu Endowment Board (HEB) will appoint three additional board members to put into place “proper governance and internal controls” at the temple.
8. Devotees unhappy but most will still donate money
When the newspapers caught up with devotees who donated to the temple, plenty of them were shocked and unhappy with the news.
However, when it comes to whether they’ll continue donating or not, most indicate that they will.
Some felt that with the authorities now watching closely, the management will “behave properly” and not mess around with the money.
Others felt that with the new management, the management committee will get better.
However, there are those who are unhappy with the saga and said they’ll “just pray and leave” from now on.
They don’t mind donating the money as long as it’s not for any individual’s personal gain, but for the good of the temple.
The devotees agree that the committee could have been more transparent when it comes to donations and their uses.
The “reserved seat” has been abused by people who seek validation in their lives. Agree or disagree?
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