June 07, 2009

020509 The $90,000 questionsss

The first person to question the new exco on how much of AWARE's funds they had used up since taking office was ordered by Josie Lau to SIT DOWN as she had asked more than one question. When she refused to move away from the microphone, Josie Lau called for the auxillary police to remove her from the hall. Seems like there was something to hide, & that that something was rather huge...

Maureen Ong then went on & on in circles about the last minute changes in venues, before disclosing that they were spending $18,000 just to rent Suntec Convention Hall 402, which shocked the audience - just how much did the new exco spend in all, when costs for the Raffles Town Club press conference, new security system, CCTVs & locks for the AWARE office, legal counsel from Rajah & Tann, organisation of the EGM by Ape Communications, Boardroom, Deloitte & Touche & AETOS auxillary police, & rental of Suntec Convention Hall 403 were totalled up? A member of the old guard who was elected into the new exco (Chew I-Jin) said that she quit her post (as assistant treasurer) when the rest of the new exco persisted in keeping her in the dark regarding the cost of organising the EGM.

When the $5000 pricetag for Hall 403 was divulged, the term ultra vires was added to the vocabulary of many a non-lawyer in the audience, as the new exco was taken to task by a lawyer in the audience for spending beyond the $20,000/month limit laid out in AWARE's constitution, without seeking prior approval from members. Another member of the audience, an event organiser, chastised the new exco for frittering away funds that should instead be channeled towards the people whom AWARE helps. They could have simply asked around for volunteers & help in securing a free venue - had they approached her, she would have organised everything for zero dollars & zero cents.

$18,000 + $5000 = $23,000 & still counting...others in the audience continued to press the new exco for a total figure. Surely it was impossible for them (& irresponsible) to not have at least a ballpark figure at hand, or were they treating AWARE's funds as their swipe-as-you-please personal credit line? After spending fifty minutes on evading questionsss on the total figure, Maureen Ong finally revealed that it was in the region of $90,000. The audience was naturally livid - This is ABSOLUTELY HORRIFYING. You have spent $70,000 above the accepted limit! Given the IPC status of AWARE, what would the Commissioner of Charities have to say about this overexpenditure?

At this point, one of the few supporters of the new exco who spoke up during the EGM took to the microphone, saying that he was an accountant & that I am from COOS and I am not ashamed to admit that. I would like to clarify that COOS did not ask its members to come here to promote Christianity. Please be rational, although $90,000 is spent, but we have recouped it by the new membership fees of $120,000.

The way such five- & six-figure sums were being bandied about by certain individuals seemed a little too callous to the cat. It doesn't know what peanut planet those humans come from, but $90,000 is what the average human in Singapore takes almost 2 years to earn (or 2.5-3 years of washing test tubes in the case of the cat). A net gain of $30,000 does not not NOT negate the fact that the new exco had spent enough to hire 3 NUS social work graduates to take on 3 social workers' worth of caseloads (average 40-50 families at any time for Family Service Centre social workers) for a year, or pay for counselling for 1800 women facing problems like domestic violence, or fund 900 sessions of AWARE's legal clinic for women who need access to free legal advice, or run AWARE's helpline for women in crisis for ~3.5 years, or support 250 elderly individuals or 94 families surviving on public assistance from MCYS for a month(*). The cat thinks that the new exco & Mr Accountant from COOS could learn a lot about the spirit of running a nonprofit from the likes of Louis Ng of ACRES & his $500/month starting salary. Society as a whole would also be a nicer place with more empathy.

(*) $360/month for an elderly person living alone, $950/month for a family of four, as of 1 April 2009.