14 Jul 2005

Public anger over charity chief’s salary

By John Burton in Singapore
Published: July 14 2005 01:33 | Last updated: July 14 2005 01:33

An unprecedented wave of public anger has swept Singapore after the head of its largest charity disclosed this week that he was paid up to S$600,000 ($350,000, €290,000, £200,000) annually and took first-class flights.


The headquarters of the National Kidney Foundation was covered with protest graffiti, in a rare act of vandalism for the normally placid city-state, and the topic has dominated internet chatrooms.

The issue could prove embarrassing for the government since the chief patron of the NKF is the wife of Goh Chok Tong, Singapore's senior minister and former prime minister.

The public outrage also reflects complaints that Singapore's elite appears to be enjoying a lavish lifestyle when the income gap between the rich and poor is widening.

NKF, which helps to finance dialysis treatment for kidney patients, has been one of Singapore's most popular charities.

But it also has been criticised for a lack of transparency, including refusing to reveal the salary of its chief executive, T. T. Durai.

The controversy surrounding NKF was triggered after Mr Durai filed a defamation lawsuit against the Straits Times, Singapore's leading newspaper, over an article that said he had installed gold-plated taps in his office bathroom.

Mr Durai said the article suggested he was misusing the charity's funds.

But potentially damaging information concerning NKF was revealed when the defamation trial began this week.

In addition to his high salary and first-class flights, Mr Durai and other staff had access to eight company cars and drivers.

Davinder Singh, the lawyer acting for the Straits Times, alleged that the NKF was misleading the public since it claimed it was treating more patients than it had, while its reserves of S$220m were adequate to help kidney patients for decades, instead of three years as NKF claimed.

Mr Durai was also alleged to have a “commercial relationship” with an NKF board member who had interests in a call centre that NKF was using.

After two days of tough questioning, Mr Durai decided to drop his defamation suit. Mr Durai is under public pressure to resign, with an online petition urging his dismissal having gathered 7,500 signatures in the past day.

NKF also reported that 2,700 people had cancelled donation pledges.

Public attention has also focused on Mrs Goh, the senior minister's wife, after she defended Mr Durai's salary.

“For a person who runs a million-dollar charitable organisation, S$600,000 is peanuts as [NKF] has a few hundred millions in reserves,” she said.

The controversy has led to calls that disclosure guidelines for charities should be tightened, including revealing the salaries of top executives.


Related Links:
Singapore Windows - Charity Chief Reveals $600,000 salary
NewSintercom - STi July 12, 2005
Sg Review - The Board Behind The NKF Scam
Sg Review - The Petition
PAP Endorses NKF Deception - Birds of the Same Feather
Rampant Legitimised Corruption in Senior Govt Positions


10 comments:

Anonymous said...

“For a person who runs a million-dollar charitable organisation, S$600,000 is peanuts as [NKF] has a few hundred millions in reserves,” she(Mrs Goh, the senior minister's wife) said.

lol! duh, with her husband earning like what... 2mil annually? let's see her donate 600k since it's 'peanuts'.

i find an uncanny similarity between what is happening here and the singapore govt.

clyde said...

No WAY...surely installing GOLD taps in an office bathroom is not a 'misuse of charity funds'! I'm sure his hands require the touch of gold just as much as any kidney patient needs expensive medical treatment. And why am i not surprised the government somehow has their dirty hands behind this..

Well, I guess Mr Durai has jumped on the bandwagon of fat cats who like to file defamatory lawsuits to feed their bottomless wallets. But let's at least thank the guy for shooting himself in the foot by putting himself in the spotlight. I hope for his sake he heeds the call of the petitioners and crawl into exile...before the people drag his sorry *ss out and crucify him upside down.

Anonymous said...

Hell, I 'lost it' all the time, you know (no, of course not in Geylang or Ang Teng Bae Tow) but all I got was db 3 times, IMH 2 times (and my shrinks are all on overseas study leave ... it was that bad) and of course the mandatory free bed and breakfast 2 times ...

But nobody ever told me I had to lose it as a plumber!

Is there an institute that teaches one how to 'lost it' ... no, definitely not IMH ... at the rate their shrinks are granted overseas study leave, its only time before they themselves 'lost it' ...

Anonymous said...

I smell a rat ... or is it fish?

Anonymous said...

a trained lawyer saying all they wanted was a retraction from a national newspaper, it shows the arrogance and true colour. is it any wonder that durai actually proceeded to sue even when he knew the articles was true. with peanuts to back him.

Anonymous said...

wat penut??!! , she has not being poor withou single cents in the pocket!! for good sick punish hard on them pls..

Anonymous said...

Later NKF become a state-controlled charity organisation

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