Probe by charities watchdog finds 'severe mismanagement' at Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Little India is one of Singapore’s oldest temples. (PHOTO: Facebook / Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple)

An investigation by the Commissioner of Charities (COC) into the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple’s administration has found evidence of “severe mismanagement” by three key office bearers, said the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) in a statement released on Monday (30 April).

The mismanagement is said to have occurred between 1 January 2011 and 31 July 2014 and involved the temple’s chairman Sivakadacham, former chairman R Selvaraju, and secretary Ratha Krishnan Selvakumar.

During this period, the three, who were cheque signatories and approvers for payments, issued more than $1.5 million in uncrossed cheques. Of these, 45 cheques – totalling more than $227,000 – were not issued to the names of the intended recipients of the proceeds.

As a result of the COC probe, Sivakadacham and Selvakumar have been relieved of their posts while Selvaraju has been banned from holding any future administrative positions.

“The COC noted severe lack of care and prudence by the key office bearers in the discharge of their duties as management committee members and guardians of the Charity’s charitable assets,” said the MMCY news release.

“The inquiry noted instances where the charity’s funds and charitable assets were placed at undue risks due to the key office bearers’ failure to exercise adequate care and prudence in their governance and financial management of the Charity.”

It cited that the three men had issued uncrossed cheques and allowed uncrossed cheques to be exchanged for cash in the temple’s premises.

The inquiry also revealed that Ratha had obtained loans of $350,000 without the management committee’s approval and with no written loan agreements with the lenders. Cash loans and disbursements of proceeds from the loans were also not properly accounted for in the temple’s records.

The statement also noted that there were “serious issues of conflict of interest” as Ratha was one of the parties who approved a transaction involving more than $750,000 with two vendors which were owned by his relative.

The inquiry also found that internal controls at the temple were “near non-existent” as there were no documented policies and procedures in place to guide members of the management committee and employees in respect of financial governance.

Sivakadacham’s suspension means that he is banned from being involved in the management of the temple in any way, and from representing the charity. The COC will remove Sivakadacham from his post as governing board member and trustee of the Charity.

The COC also found that Ratha had been previously been convicted of offences relating to dishonesty, which disqualifies him from acting as a governing board member, key officer or a trustee for charity. He will also not be allowed hold any management positions in the temple.

The authority noted that Selvaraju left office on 20 November 2016 but it would “not hesitate to take action against” him if he resumed a management position.

The COC has appointed three additional governing board members to the temple under the Charities Act to “put in place proper board governance and internal controls” at the temple.

It was reported in August last year that Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple – one of Singapore’s oldest temples – was being investigated by the COC for possible breaches of the Charities Act as well as by the Commercial Affairs Department for suspected criminal offences.

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