New leader, fresh start for NKF
New CEO wants to move on from past controversies to focus on patients' wellbeing
Mr Tim Oei, new chief executive officer of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), is eager to move away from the controversies surrounding the charity.
He wants to focus on making sure his dialysis patients are well-cared for - both physically and emotionally, he said at a press conference yesterday.
Flanked by NKF chairman Koh Poh Tiong and interim CEO Eunice Tay, Mr Oei, 58, said: "The past is the past. Things have been done, I cannot undo all those. But we have learnt some lessons, we have strengthened the organisation."
In November last year, former NKF chief Edmund Kwok was fired for a "personal indiscretion" involving a male employee. It is now a police case.
On Aug 21, Mr Oei took over the mantle from Mrs Tay, who acted as interim CEO since December last year while a board search committee reviewed more than 50 candidates.
Mrs Tay was NKF's CEO from 2006 to 2013.
Following the incident last year, Mr Koh said donors have remained supportive because "that matter was a personal indiscretion that you and I cannot control".
NKF now has 167,000 donors - up from 144,000 in 2012.
"They say that as long as the stewardship of the funds, their donations, is well taken care of (they will continue to support us)," said Mr Koh.
But costs are expected to rise as more patients require dialysis. In Singapore, about five people are diagnosed with kidney failure every day.
Of the 4,200 patients at NKF, 62 per cent have to cope with diabetes.
To cater to the rising demand, seven new dialysis centres, including an integrated renal centre, will be built by 2020.
Mr Koh expects NKF's spending to go up to $150 million by then from $100 million last year.
He hopes the number of donors will continue to grow, and said: "We will get the funds, we will find as many sites as we can. The management has talked about integrated centres, strategic thinking. So we have a plan.
"In fact, NKF is actually run like a business: Tell me a key issue, give me a three-year plan... then work towards that."
He is also confident that Mr Oei's previous role as head of charity organisation Awwa will stand him in good stead, adding that he is "level-headed", "strategic" and a "very steady fellow".
For Mr Oei, a father of three, it was not an easy decision to leave his comfort zone of 9½ years.
"Am I too old to learn new tricks? Not easily, but I think I am open and I will try," he said, adding that the opportunity came at a time when he felt he had done his job at Awwa.
His family was supportive, but some around him were sceptical, given the past scandals at the organisation, he said.
NKF's reputation had also been tarnished in 2005 by revelations of former CEO T.T. Durai's extravagance and mismanagement of charity funds.
Mr Oei said: "When I told people I am going to join NKF, the first thing they asked about is the past. I said, 'Have you considered the patients?'
"A lot of people forget about the patients and their lives."
But he reiterated that NKF's corporate governance has not been disrupted.
"Let us be clear that the last incident (involving Kwok) is not a question of checks, or lack of checks. NKF's always had the governance level... That has not been in any way disrupted.
"A lot of things continue to exist and continually needs to be strengthened as the organisation evolves," he said.
Those who want to donate to the NKF can do so at http://bit.do/lifedrops