Mr Khaw has spoken, we can now rest easy

July 16, 2005
Singapore Democrats

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Now that the PAP MPs have had time to digest the goings-on in the NKF and then wax righteous about the affair in parliament, will they now explain what they were doing when Acting Minister for Health Khaw Boon Wan expressed very different views from Minister Khaw Boon Wan?

In April 2004 Mr Khaw, in response to public unease over NKF, came to the organisation’s defence. Not only did the Acting Minister not raise any questions about the way NKF operated, he wanted the charity to continue to remain transparent about the donations.

And then, the egg dropped. Fifteen months and a portion of a lawsuit later, the Minister now says that it would be “helpful” to review the financial controls within the organization.

In April 2004, he pointed out that NKF had been “innovative” in its fund-raising and that was why it had been able to encourage a lot of regular donors (himself included, he said.)

Now he says that new fund-raising activities must be suspended pending a review of the organization’s workings.

In April 2004, he “took his hat off” to the NKF for raising the “kind of money” that they did.

Now he wants that “kind of money” to be inspected.

In April 2004, he soothed us by noting that the Ministry of Finance “would have reacted many years ago” had NKF breached the rules or the code of conduct of the Commission of Charities. The fact that it (the MOF) didn’t, he assured, should give us many nights of blissful rest.

Now he insists that organisation has to “fully address” the public’s questions over its practices and spending of the donated money.

All this bluster obscures the scary fact that if Mr TT Durai had not chosen to sue the Straits Times, then we would all still be happy campers, believing that the ever-vigilant Finance Ministry (presumably with the able assistance of the Health Ministry) would have been watching over everything for us.

This might not be such a good time to remind Singaporeans that at about the same time last year, the Government amended constitution to allow our reserves to be transferred to government linked companies and statutory boards for business purposes. But there’s really nothing to worry about, folks – no ministry has taken any action for so many years, so everything is fine.

We can now all go back to sleep.

The two before-and-after reports below on Mr Khaw Boon Wan’s remarks are appended for your reading pleasure.

Acting Health Minister supports NKF over publicity surrounding its reserves

Channel News Asia

10 April 2004

Acting Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan has come out in support of the National Kidney Foundation in the wake of recent publicity surrounding its reserves.

Mr Khaw, a regular donor to the NKF himself, says it would be a sad day in Singapore if, as a result, there was a donation backlash, and this affected patients.

In recent days, there has been much publicity on the NKF and the amount of reserves it has.

But the Minister said the NKF has been innovative in its fund-raising and that is why it has been able to encourage a lot of regular donors, like himself.

And donations must be continuous.

Mr Khaw said: “It is a continuous process. It is a large operation now. I don’t know how much they spend but with a thousand over dialysis patients on continuous dialysis, the demand is big and you can never be sure when the donation will dry up. I hope the publicity will lead in the correct direction – that is to cause more awareness of the problem of dialysis, of people with kidney failure, and by all means donate. I continue to donate.”

The Minister, who has made transparency his trademark since he took over the health portfolio, urged the NKF to continue to remain transparent about the donations.

And he said while donors want 100 percent of donations to go to the beneficiary, that was not possible as some money needs to go to pay for further fund-raising.

Charities must also abide by the rules of fund-raising.

He said: “I’m sure the Commissioner if Charities has certain rules and code of conduct and if they are not fulfilling it, then the MOF will react but in this case, I don’t think so. Otherwise, they have been around for many years, MOF would have reacted many years ago.”

Mr Khaw added that donating to charities should be encouraged.

“It’s good for Singaporeans to promote, be encouraged to give to charity. It’s good for you. I take my hat off to the NKF. They have been able to raise that kind of money over the years and we wish them well.”

Health Ministry identifies six key tasks for new NKF Board

Channel News Asia

21 Jul 05

Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan has identified six crucial areas which he says the new National Kidney Foundation (NKF) Board must address quickly to restore public confidence in the charity.

A top concern, he says, must be to ensure that patient care and existing clinical services in NKF’s 21 dialysis centres is not disrupted.

Another area is a review of the NKF’s reserves, and its adequacy before embarking on new fund-raising activities.

Thirdly, corporate governance must be reviewed to ensure the Board maintains sufficient independence from the management.

Mr Khaw stressed that the organisation has to fully address the public unease over allegations of questionable practices and inappropriate spending of charity funds.

Although no issues had been raised following previous audits of NKF’s accounts through the years, he says it would be helpful to commission a fresh and detailed review of financial controls within the organisation.

The new Board has already appointed the audit firm KPMG for this and the findings will be made public.

In addition, Mr Khaw says NKF’s communications with donors should be scrutinised to make sure there were no misleading statements.

And finally, the charity’s pricing and subsidy policies for its dialysis programme should be reviewed to ensure adequate assistance was being provided.

He rejected the idea, however, of NKF providing dialysis services for free.

Mr Khaw says patients and families should take co-responsibility, so they could retain their self-esteem and live their lives more confidently.

Noting the impact of the NKF controversy on its staff, Mr Khaw says staff morale would also have to be restored.