The Singapore Commissioner of Charities (COC) in a statement said it uncovered lapses in the management of a prominent Hindu temple on Serangoon Road, and has moved to suspend two out of three key office bearers who are implicated in the investigations.
In a media statement, the COC said that, between January 1, 2011 and July 31, 2014, there were multiple instances of "severe mismanagement" in the administration of the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, which obtained charity status in 1988.
It listed three key office bearers, former chairman R Selvaraju, former trustee and current chairman Sivakadacham, as well as temple trustee and secretary of the temple's management committee Ratha Krishnan Selvakumar, as people who are involved.
The 182-year-old temple on Serangoon Road, one of the oldest in Singapore, is the subject of a concurrent inquiry by the COC and the Commercial Affairs Department, after a review that flagged “certain areas of concern with regard to governance and administration”.
An inquiry by the COC found that the temple issued uncrossed cheques, and allowed these cheques to be exchanged for cash.
It found that between January 1, 2011 and July 31, 2014, more than SGD1.5 million in uncrossed cheques were issued by the three key office bearers, with about 45 of them not issued to the names of its intended recipients.
The inquiry also revealed "serious issues" of conflict of interest. The temple had reimbursed Selvakumar for SIM card purchases made from Selvakumar's personal business, which amounted to more than SGD2,800. Selvakumar also approved transactions of more than S$750,000 with two vendors owned by his relative, it added.
In addition, Selvakumar obtained loans of SGD350,000 in the temple's name, without the approval of the temple's management committee, or written loan agreements with the lenders.
"There were no documented policies and procedures within the (temple's) finance function to provide guidance to the management committee members and employees on how their duties were to be discharged," it added.
The COC has suspended Sivakadacham from his duties with immediate effect. The COC has also removed Selvakumar from his positions in the temple as his prior conviction disqualifies him from acting in a capacity of a governing board member.
It did not take any action against former chairman R Selvaraju, as he is no longer a governing board member, trustee, key officer, employee or agent of the temple.
"The COC will not hesitate to take action against Selvaraju should he resume any office in the Charity," said the COC.
Three additional governing board members will also be appointed to the temple, with the aim of putting in place proper governance practices, and internal controls within the temple.
Asked if any of the office holders have been arrested, the police said it is “inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation”.
One of the oldest Hindu temples in the Kampong Kapor district, the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, which has been earmarked for conservation, was founded by Tamil pioneers in 1835. The building underwent a SGD7 million makeover in August 2012.