City Harvest trial: Auditor: I changed statement wording

City Harvest trial: Auditor: I changed statement wording
CHANGE: Auditor Foong Daw Ching, 63, modified the statement that CHC wanted him to record.

SINGAPORE - City Harvest Church (CHC) had approached auditor Foong Daw Ching in 2003 to make a video.

This came after a churchgoer accused CHC of misusing funds for pop singer Ho Yeow Sun's career. While he later retracted the statement and issued apologies in major newspapers, the church called for a special audit of their funds.

After the audit was done, CHC asked Mr Foong, who led the auditing team, to attend their annual general meeting to testify that their books were clean.

When he said he was unavailable, they sent a video crew to him instead.

The crew asked Mr Foong, then managing partner of auditing firm Baker Tilly TFW LLP, to read a prepared statement that "no church funds were ever used in the promotion of Ms Ho Yeow Sun's secular singing career".

But he was uncomfortable with the statement and decided to change the wording, Mr Foong told the court yesterday. The original had asked him to "certify" that no church funds were used during promotion.

Certify

"There's no way that I can 'certify' that no church funds (were used). When I say that (it) means even $100 (was) used (it) is already not appropriate anymore," he told the court. The statement was thus amended to read "in my professional opinion".

Mr Foong however, said he cannot remember who in CHC had contacted him about the video, nor was he able to say who handed him the prepared statement. What he could remember though, was that he had less than 30 minutes to record his part.

Through the years, church leaders had sought Mr Foong's advice on property matters, bond investments and financial transactions that may involve disclosure of prior relationships between the parties.

He had been CHC's "engagement partner" in 1993 for a year before handing the position to another partner. Though he was not the main point person, Mr Foong continued to give general advice because "overall, I'm still a consultant partner to the whole of the CHC group of companies", he told former finance manager Serina Wee in a January 2006 e-mail.

Deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng was also included in the e-mail exchange.

But it turned out that "consultant partner" was actually not an official title.

Said Mr Foong: "It's just something that I think... Just put it in to give (church leaders) comfort that they can still come and talk to me."

Baker Tilly has over 100 churches as clients and "many of them know me personally, so I open myself out to any one of them to come and talk to me", he said.


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