Charity leaders expect little fallout, unlike in Durai case

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)."

NKF sacks CEO Edmund Kwok over 'personal indiscretion'

  • Mr Edmund Kwok, seen leaving his house at 1.25pm on Nov 17.
  • The interior of his house.
  • The cars inside his house.
  • The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) had no choice but to sack its chief executive officer Edmund Kwok, given the seriousness of his offence against a male colleague, said the organisation's chairman, Koh Poh Tiong (right).
  • Mr Koh Poh Tiong said he was both disappointed and extremely sad because "Edmund (pictured) was a very good CEO".
  • Speaking to the media last night, Mr Koh said NKF's 11-member board was unanimous in deciding that strong and swift action had to be taken because one man's personal indiscretion "cannot and must not affect the whole organisation".
  • Mr Kwok's "personal indiscretion", which The Straits Times understands to be of a sexual nature, occurred on Nov 7.
  • "We have been working day and night. We have been having two hours of sleep," said Mr Koh, who consulted endlessly with the directors, board members and lawyers, after the issue surfaced.
  • The organisation's lawyers advised Mr Koh that what happened was a "reportable offence".
  • The disciplinary hearing, conducted by a three-member panel chaired by board member William Wan (foreground), was held on Sunday afternoon. Dr Wan said Mr Kwok again admitted to the facts of the case.
  • On Monday (Nov 14), Mr Kwok's employment with NKF was formally terminated. A police report was made on Tuesday.
  • In the three years that Mr Kwok has helmed the charitable organisation, he introduced night dialysis to help those who work in the day.
  • He also started building a $12 million mega complex in Jurong that can care for 2,000 patients a week, and found jobs for patients who had become unemployed because of their need for thrice-weekly dialysis.
The federation and its members, such as the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, are long-time supporters of the NKF. Last month, reports said the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery gave $1.4 million to NKF to set up a new dialysis centre in Toa Payoh. NKF provides subsidised dialysis for kidney patients.

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.

Read also: NKF sacks CEO Kwok over 'personal indiscretion'

NKF had no choice but to sack CEO Edmund Kwok, says chairman

This article was first published on Nov 17, 2016.
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