Project Awareness told to stop raising funds

Project Awareness told to stop raising funds

The Commissioner of Charities (COC) has ordered a social initiative group working with the needy to stop raising funds until it has its house in order.

The restriction order was issued to Project Awareness founder Elson Soh and its director, Mr Ng Yung Kung, on Monday. The announcement by the COC said the group can resume fund raising when it meets three criteria.

They have to put in place internal systems and controls that comply with the Charities Regulations, ensure its former project coordinator, Mr William Soh, is not involved in any way in fund-raising and to have a bank account in the name of Project Awareness for donations.

The COC said it had found a lack of proper internal controls with incomplete records and documentation of the group's fund-raising appeals. It also noted that Mr William Soh is an undischarged bankrupt.

When contacted, Mr Elson Soh, 25, a singer, confirmed receiving the order and directed all queries to Mr William Soh, who is also his manager. The two men are not related.

Mr William Soh, 37, told The Straits Times he left his position as project coordinator in September following the commissioner's investigation of the group.

"I understand COC's concern with my bankruptcy status, which I do not try to hide. I don't want to hold up the various parties involved in the fund-raising activities, including the beneficiaries," Mr William Soh said in Mandarin in a phone interview.

In August, the COC asked Mr Elson Soh to account for donations to Project Awareness, following reports in The Straits Times that a bank account listed on Project Awareness' Facebook page for donations belonged to Mr William Soh.

On Tuesday, Mr Elson Soh posted on the Facebook page that the group would stop its fund-raising appeals or not accept any cash donations.

He wrote that Project Awareness was "not so dependent on monetary means in running our activities now" after some major revamps.

The group had a number of initiatives, including a meal voucher programme for the needy.

"We would like to thank everyone for your kind contributions all this while. Rest assured that this is not the end but rather, a new beginning for Project Awareness. Volunteer activities and distributions will still carry on in future and donations as of now will be in kind and no longer in forms of cash," Mr Soh said.

The COC said it would work with the group to address lapses in its management for better transparency and accountability.

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