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Financial mismanagement at Singapore's Hindu Temple, key officials implicated


Press Trust of India Singapore
Two office bearers at a Hindu temple in Singapore's Little India precinct have been suspended after an inquiry commission found "severe" financial mismanagement by its administration.
The Commissioner of Charities (COC) said that, between January 1, 2011 and July 31, 2014, there were multiple instances of "severe mismanagement" in the administration of the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple, which obtained charity status in 1988, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said in a statement today.
The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) has also notified COC of its investigation into the financial affairs of charity, which runs the temple in Serangoon Road.
It involved members of the management committee, who were the cheque signatories and approvers for payments at Sri Veeramakaliamman, one of Singapore's oldest Hindu temples built in the mid 19th century as a tribute to the goddess Kali.
The members involved were former management committee chairman R Selvaraju, current committee chairman and charity trustee Sivakadacham (Siva) and Ratha Krishnan Selvakumar (Kumar), charity trustee and present secretary of the management committee.
The COC "noted severe lack of care and prudence" in the members' discharging of their duties.
The ministry added that the inquiry noted instances where the charity's funds and charitable assets were "placed at undue risks".
For instance, the key office bearers had "prevalently issued uncrossed cheques and allowed uncrossed cheques to be exchanged for cash in the charity's premises".
The temple issued uncrossed cheques totalling more than SGD1.5 million between January 1, 2011 and July 31, 2014. Nearly 45 of which were cheques in excess of SGD 227,000 that were not issued to the names of the intended proceeds recipients.
According to the statement, Kumar had also obtained loans of SGD350,000 without the management committee's approval and with no written loan agreements with the lenders.
There was also "limited supporting evidence" of the cash from these loans being disbursed to intended recipients.
The inquiry also found "serious issues of conflict of interest". Kumar was one of the approvers for more than SGD750,000 worth of temple transactions with two vendors owned by his relative.
He had also been reimbursed for purchases related to his personal business.
"Given the gravity of the Inquiry findings, under the Act and with the consent of the Attorney-General, the COC has suspended Siva from the exercise of his office as governing board member and trustee of the charity with immediate effect," said MCCY.
"With regard to Kumar, the COC is of the view that Kumar should also be barred from his office in the charity in light of his involvement in the mismanagement in the administration of the charity," said the ministry.
"It has come to the COC's attention that Kumar has been previously convicted of criminal offences involving elements of dishonesty", rendering him disqualified from acting in the capacity of a governing board member or charity trustee, the ministry added.
The COC has also promised enforcement action against Selvaraju should he resume any office in the temple.
It has, with the consent of the Attorney-General and assistance from the Hindu Endowments Board, appointed three additional governing board members to "put in place proper board governance and internal controls" at the temple.
The temple completed SGD 7 million restoration works in 2014.

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First Published: Apr 30 2018 | 2:30 PM IST

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