Charity watchdog seeking public feedback
Proposed changes to Charities Act
The charity watchdog is looking into strengthening the regulation for fund-raising appeals in Singapore.
The Office of the Commissioner of Charities (COC) yesterday called for public feedback on several key changes to the Charities Act, which was last amended in 2010.
Changes include new grounds of disqualification for leadership positions in charities.
Non-profit organisations and individuals, not under the purview of the COC, have been in the spotlight because of the large amounts of money raised, especially using online appeals.
All fund-raising efforts, however, are regulated under the Charities Regulation.
If the proposed amendments are passed in Parliament, the Commissioner will have the power to suspend any fund-raising appeal if he has reason to suspect that it is not properly conducted.
The period of suspension is proposed to be capped at two years and will allow the Commissioner to be more responsive to improper activities pending investigations, said the COC.
Another proposal will enhance the Commissioner's power to call for documents and information. This means the Commissioner can ask for new information or documents (such as monthly bank statements) at a future point without making a new order each time.
Our community of donors and fund-raisers have always believed in honesty and acting responsibly, working together as a community to improve the trust.Give.Asia spokesman
According to the Charity Portal, the Commissioner has prohibited and stopped four fund-raising appeals since 2007.
Crowd-funding platforms welcomed the move for greater accountability.
Non-profit group Ray of Hope Initiative, which will be hosted on the national online donation platform Giving.sg by the end of the year, said donors deserve a platform with stringent due diligence and oversight.
"With the popularity of online crowdfunding, if the over raising and cases of fraud on crowdfunding sites continue, we are concerned that over time, donors' disappointment will result in less giving and generosity in Singapore," said a spokesman.
A spokesman from Give.Asia, a crowdfunding site for charity and medical causes, said: "Our community of donors and fund-raisers have always believed in honesty and acting responsibly, working together as a community to improve the trust."
But Mr Mohammad Nafiz Kamarudin from the Happy People Helping People (HPHP) Foundation, which has raised more than $280,000 on Give.Asia, thinks too much regulation will hamper efforts to help its beneficiaries.
HPHP buys meals and supermarket vouchers for poor elderly box collectors. For accountability, it posts pictures of receipts on its Facebook page and encourages people to join it.
Mr Nafiz said: "We have more than 17,000 auditors on our Facebook page who look at our receipts. Why do we need another third party to do so?"
Other proposed changes
New grounds for disqualification from being a governing board member or key officer of a charity
Currently, those convicted of an offence involving dishonesty or deception are barred.
The proposed change will include conviction of an offence involving terrorism, terrorism financing or money laundering.
New grounds for removal
The Commissioner of Charities can now remove a disqualified person when the person refuses to resign from his position in a charity.
The Commissioner can still make a removal order if the person in question has resigned from the charity.
Mandatory filing of annual submissions and other regulatory submissions via electronic means
Most charities already file annual submissions electronically.
This new proposal, which makes it compulsory, will promote transparency and accountability as it will enable the publishing of financial statements and annual report submissions on the Charity Portal. - LINETTE HENG