Business Times - 14 Jul 2006
S'poreans giving less money, more time to charities
By JAMIE LEE
(SINGAPORE) When it comes to charitable giving, Singaporeans are getting tighter with their money but freer with their time, according to the latest survey results released by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).
Released on Tuesday, the NVPC figures show that the total donation figure from individual giving was $341 million in 2006, or $125 per donor.
This is a plunge compared to the average donation of $155 per donor, and the total giving of $438 million two years ago when it last conducted the survey.
BT had earlier highlighted individual donor fatigue despite record donations of over $600 million last year.
According to the report, Singaporeans' generosity started to wane following the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) scandal and the outpouring of money at the time of the Asian tsunami at the end of 2004.
In a separate Business Times article (also published today), we see why this might be a good idea.
Business Times - 14 Jul 2006However, it appears that the Singapore government can be slow and inefficient in handling not just charitable donations, but public money in general:
Lapses in govt finances show up in AG report
By CHUANG PECK MING
MORE than five years later, $474,092 of donations made to the Alexandra and Woodbridge Hospitals before they were corporatised is still in the hands of the Ministry of Health.
The ministry's explanation for not handing the money over? It was not aware that it had to obtain an order under the Charities Act before the restructured hospitals could use the funds - an order requiring the approval of the Commissioner of Charities and the Attorney-General.
AG Chuang Kwong Yong points out in his latest report on the public sector's accounts for FY 2005/06 that after the Health Ministry was told of the necessary procedure in January 2002, it took more than a year before it applied for the order in January 2004.
And plans for use of the donations were finalised and sent to the Commissioner of Charities only in February this year.
'According to the ministry, it was a long-drawn process requiring many rounds of queries and clarifications between the ministry, hospitals, the AG and the Commissioner of Charities,' the AG's report says.
But disbursing the donations was not the only undue delay on the part of the Health Ministry. The ministry has yet to seek reimbursement of $37.8 million it spent on development projects for certain restructured healthcare institutions, even though the projects were completed between 2000 and 2003.
Other cases of undue delays that came to light after recent audit test checks by the AG were found in the Supreme Court, the Law Ministry and Trade and Industry Ministry.
Some 61 cheques for $8,076 issued by the Supreme Court between Dec 2, 1995 and May 8, 2000 were not presented to the bank. 'As at March 31, 2006, these cheques had already expired for between six and 10 years and yet the accounting records were not adjusted to reverse the failed payment transactions,' the report says.
Other lapses include the loss of public money over, for instance, payment of music lessons for children of overseas staff; revenue arrears; procurement irregularities; late payment to suppliers; and improper advance payments.
At the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, the AG found that the ministry let an agent who is not a public officer sign the ministry's tenancy agreements on the government's behalf.
'Signing contracts on behalf of the government is a serious matter as it commits the government to specific obligations under the contracts and could have significant financial implications,' the report says.
And here is a classic example of civil-service stupidity:
A tenant of the Law Ministry defaulted on rent of $556,800.58 and there was no security deposit to make good at least part of the arrears - all because of 36 cents. When the tenant submited a cashier's order for $77,666.64, the exact amount for the deposit, to the Singapore Land Authority, it was returned to him because the computer system was designed only to accept payments rounded up to the nearest dollar. The SLA requested a fresh deposit of $77,667 but the tenant did not submit it.Because you wanted 36 extra cents from the man, you rejected his $77,667. Very clever indeed.
'The authority acknowledged that it should have asked for a deposit of $77,667 in the first instance,' the report says. 'It also conceded that the shortfall of 36 cents should have been handled without returning the cashier's order to the tenant who had already taken possession of the state property.'