While this is the second time a National Kidney Foundation (NKF) chief executive has been embroiled in a scandal, leaders in the charity sector were quick to draw a distinction between the two incidents.
They said the fallout from Mr Edmund Kwok's sacking is not likely to affect the NKF much.
The key difference is that the dismissal of Mr Kwok, 58, has nothing to do with money matters, or "stewardship of finances", as NKF chairman Koh Poh Tiong put it. He was sacked for a "personal indiscretion" involving a male employee.
In contrast, details of former NKF chief executive T.T. Durai's $600,000-a-year pay cheque and first-class perks, his involvement in manipulating patient numbers as well as misusing donations enraged donors and drove them away.
These revelations emerged when Mr Durai sued Singapore Press Holdings in 2005 over a Straits Times report that said he had a gold-plated tap in his office toilet. Mr Durai and the entire board stepped down in the wake of public outrage.
The Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, said: "We have to separate a personal indiscretion from an organisational problem. If it's a personal problem that affects his behaviour, I don't think this will affect donor confidence or our confidence (in the NKF)."
Dr Gordon Ku, founder of the Kidney Dialysis Foundation, was less sanguine about donor reaction, as this is the second scandal at NKF. But he applauded its management for taking swift action once it was alerted to the problem.
At yesterday's press conference, Mr Koh said the charity never recovered from the Durai fallout. From a peak of about 250,000 during Mr Durai's tenure, donor numbers fell to about 146,000 when Mr Koh joined as chairman in 2012. Now there are about 160,000.
Other charity leaders said Mr Kwok's sacking should not lead to a major fallout or shake confidence in the charity sector as a whole, as this was an isolated incident involving one man's private life and not a systemic governance problem.
Patient Richard Tay, 55, and a sales director, was initially worried that the sacking may affect NKF operations. He said: "But I don't think we will be affected because even after the Durai saga, our treatment and subsidies did not stop. I think the organisation did the right thing because if they found a fault, it is only right that they correct it."
According to NKF's website, the charity received about $22 million in cash donations in its last financial year, which ended in June.
This article was first published on Nov 17, 2016.
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