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Author Topic: Charity commissioner questions City Harvest  (Read 10718 times)
dapengmingwang
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« on: March 20, 2010, 03:57:01 AM »

...

Perhaps its removal as a charity and even an audit of CHC's books and is in order.

Quote
Charity commissioner questions City Harvest
Melissa Sim, Esther Teo & Yen Feng
Sat, Mar 20, 2010
The Straits Times


THE Commissioner of Charities has questioned City Harvest Church (CHC) about its $310 million stake in Suntec Singapore.

The money spent includes renovation and rental costs, the church said. CHC has not created a separate business entity for the purchase of the property.

But in the wake of the announcement, questions surfaced among the public about whether religious organisations - which are registered as charities - should be allowed to go into business using what are essentially donor funds.


~~~
City Harvest paying $310m to become Suntec co-owner
Esther Teo
Sun, Mar 07, 2010


Amid cheers from the congregation, City Harvest Church (CHC) yesterday announced that it will pay $310 million to become a co-owner of Suntec Singapore, a prime piece of downtown real estate.

Senior pastor Kong Hee broke the news first at CHC's service at its Jurong West building, then later at another service at the Singapore Expo in Changi.

He said CHC had acquired a 'substantial stake in a consortium company that owns 80 per cent of a joint venture fund that owns Suntec Singapore'.
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dapengmingwang
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« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2010, 02:25:11 PM »

Did Kong Hee plagiarise?
Posted by theonlinecitizen on May 19, 2010

University students know the seriousness of it. So do journalists, whose reputation stand on their ability to tell the truth. Even literary writers, whose job is to craft fiction, understand the need to be original.

So I was surprised to learn that large swaths of Kong Hee's daily devotionals are lifted from other sources - without attribution. This unexpected revelation was brought to light by an anonymous blogger who devoted an entire blog called 'Cheat Grace' to exposing Kong Hee's alleged plagiarism of other authors.

I've learnt about this blog a couple of months ago, but as it began to uncover more of Kong Hee's allegedly plagiarised articles, I began to feel a little disturbed. Underestand that I am not talking about copyright infringement, which is an entirely different issue.

While copyright infringement is illegal under all circumstances, plagiarism is not. But plagiarism is still unethical, which is why academics, journalists, and literary writers treat it seriously. Even as a blogger, I do not want to be caught stealing passages from other writers without giving them a nod.

Plagiarism is simply a breach of integrity. Writers who plagiarise are claiming the work of others as their own. It is a form of thievery and deception.

I am disturbed, therefore, that someone would accuse Kong Hee of plagiarism. But read the blog and its allegations for yourself ?which are backed up with solid documentation. The person behind the blog apparently has plenty of time and a deep well to draw motivation from.

The blogger, lets call him Cheat Grace, even muscled in the effort to pour through Kong Hee's devotional book "Renewing Your Spiritual Life Vol 2" - which is sold for $14 - to find that it contains the allegedly plagiarised devotionals. Cheat Grace even pointed out that Kong Hee claimed at the back of his book that he is 'sharing his insights from the Bible'.

The church has been silent on the matter, perhaps because it hasn't generated much online attention - yet. Church members seemed to have glossed over it, maybe because it is deemed an insignificant and minor offence. But let me proffer another reason: Since everyone is from the Body of Christ, Christians see no need to be uptight about such regulations. After all, if the truth is preached, does it matter where it came from?

The answer, it turns out, is yes. The problem with this reasoning is that even if the other party doesn't mind that his article is plagiarised, the plagiariser is still presenting a false image of himself. It is taking a shortcut to create a good impression. It is still deception.

But I've realised that plagiarism is quite rampant among some pastors anyway, except that their followers don't call it plagiarism. Pastors have been known for preaching each other's sermons as if it is their own. But while some pastors don't see it as an issue, others do. My personal stand is that even insights preached in sermons should be credited. I do not want to receive praise for a sermon I did not craft.

There appears to be a clash of cultures. On one hand, the principle of intellectual integrity demands that the work of others must be credited. On the other hand, church leaders are lax when it comes to intellectual property. Good things, they'd say, are meant to be shared after all. Or perhaps it was never implicit that sermons must be original.

But for reasons that I've mentioned above, I think there should be a sea change in the culture of the church. It is a misguided form of generousity that breeds laziness in sermon preparation. The pastor is in fact killing his own creativity and creating a false impression of himself. It deprives church members of original insights. Intellectual integrity, therefore, should be a prized value in church too.

I don't think ripping sermons is a problem if 99 percent of pastors are okay with it. Ethics and morality are after all community-based. But as above article shows, some pastors do see it as an issue. And even if every pastor in the world is okay with the practice, the context of delivering a sermon is different from authoring a piece of literary work.

Anyway, now that Cheat Grace has so painstakingly brought the truth into public space, it is time the church reveal its side of the story publicly. Since Kong Hee has published the devotional online and sold them in bookstores, this incident cannot be considered internal anymore. Does City Harvest Church believe that there is nothing wrong with such practices? If the church believes so, then declare it out loud.

But if the church acknowledges the folly of such practices, rectifications can still be made before the situation goes out of hand. My sincere hope is that this slight can be resolved quickly, and everyone can learn a lesson and move on.

I don't want a private explanation. This time, the larger Christian community needs to know.

___________________________________
Further reading:
A Biblical basis against plagiarism in the Church
Kong Hee & Co. are into plagiarism?
______________________
This article first appeared on Irreligious on 18 May 2010,
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2010, 07:57:36 AM »

孟子曰: 富贵不能淫,贫贱不能移,威武不能屈: 此之谓大丈夫。

看来城市丰收教会里有些不是大丈夫...


~~~
Church members probed
May 31, 2010

MEMBERS of Singapore's City Harvest Church are being investigated for the misuse of funds.

The Office of the Commissioner of Charities (COC) and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) is looking into some financial transactions involving several individuals and companies related or connected to the church. This was revealed in a joint statement by the COC and the Singapore Police Force.

CAD officers visited the offices of the individuals and the companies on Monday morning. During the visits, the CAD secured records and accounts as part of the investigations.

The COC had received complaints of misuse of church funds and informed the CAD after assessing that some financial transactions may need to be looked into.

The charges are said to be unrelated to previous investigations into City Harvest's purchase of a $310 million stake in Suntec City Convention Centre. The current investigations appear to be much more extensive as several of the complaints relate to specific incidents of alleged misuse of church funds many years earlier.

In the joint statement, the COC and CAD said: 'Notwithstanding the ongoing investigations, normal services and religious activities of City Harvest Church need not be disrupted and can continue for its congregation.'

More details to come.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2010, 08:03:40 AM by Grievous » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2010, 02:01:16 AM »

City Harvest Church members under investigation
By Ion Danker - May 31st, 2010

Could this be the beginning of another NKF- or Ren Ci-like scandal?

The Office of the Commissioner of Charities (COC) and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) are investigating financial transactions involving several individuals and companies connected to Singapore's City Harvest Church.

This came after the COC received complaints of misuse of church funds against City Harvest Church.

Police have confirmed that Reverend Kong Hee, the leader of the mega-church with over 33,000 members, is among those assisting in an on-going investigation.

Kong Hee's wife, Sun Ho, is a pop music singer, who currently resides in the United States. They have a son, Dayan Kong.

A joint statement issued Monday by the COC and police said CAD officers visited the offices of the individuals and the companies under investigation on Monday morning.

According to a Straits Times report, seven individuals were detained in a raid at 6.30am and by noon, 12 people were said to be assisting in investigations involving charges of falsification of accounts and criminal breach of trust.

The charges are said to be unrelated to previous investigations into City Harvest's purchase of a S$310 million stake in Suntec City Convention Centre.

City Harvest members Yahoo! Singapore spoke to, however, are unperturbed by the ongoing investigations.

One of them, who wanted to be known as John, "I think its normal for big organisations to be 'audited'. We will just have to wait and see what the outcome is from all this."

Another member from the same church who preferred to remain anonymous thought otherwise.

"I think this is just another case of 'cry wolf', out to stir up trouble for Pastor Kong Hee, Sun and City Harvest," she said.

The COC and CAD have given assurances that despite the ongoing investigations, services and religious activities of City Harvest Church will continue for its congregation.
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« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2010, 05:15:09 AM »

I propose that members should hold their contributions until the investigations clear those involved.

---
CITY HARVEST PROBE
Zul Othman
Jun 1, 2010 TodayOnline


SINGAPORE - Seventeen members of Singapore's largest stand-alone church, including its charismatic pastor, are being questioned in what is the biggest charity investigation here since the probe into financial fraud at Ren Ci Hospital and Medicare Centre in February 2008.

As of last night, a police spokesman confirmed, Reverend Kong Hee and 16 other individuals and staff involved in handling City Harvest Church's financial affairs were assisting police with the probe arising from complaints made to the Commissioner of Charities (COC) on the misuse of church funds.

The allegations, as it turns out, have nothing to do with another piece of controversy for which the megachurch - which has a congregation of 33,000 - made headlines in March.

City Harvest's indirect $310-million stake in Suntec Singapore had questions raised about its transparency and accountability to church goers. The inquiry was neither "related nor initiated due to the Suntec deal", said COC yesterday.

MediaCorp understands, rather, that the authorities are looking into specific incidences that could involve the possible falsification of accounts and criminal breach trust, involving sums that amount to millions of dollars and transactions that date back years.

The investigation also extends beyond the church, to several companies linked to certain church individuals and their associates. According to COC, the probe includes companies directly or indirectly related, which are not charities or subsidiaries of the church.

The COC, which was the first to receive complaints about misuse of church funds, had informed the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) when it assessed that some financial transactions might require the latter's investigation, said a joint statement by both bodies.

From early yesterday morning, CAD officers visited the homes and offices of the 17 individuals and staff to secure financial records and computers.

There will be no impact, however, on the normal services and religious activities of the megachurch - these "need not be disrupted and can continue for its congregation", the authorities said.

Given the complexity of the linkages, the investigation can be expected to take several months (in the Ren Ci case, the probe took about four months to complete).

The police spokesman gave the assurance that "while it will be thorough, it will be without undue delay".

Depending on the inquiry's findings, the COC has the power to suspend, remove or appoint additional charity trustees to ensure proper governance and administration of the charity.

City Harvest Church has affiliated churches in Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan, and a strong online presence - it runs live webcasts and its own broadcast channel.

Besides its huge congregation here, which regularly pack venues at Jurong West and the Singapore Expo during weekend sermons, the church's high profile has stemmed from its charismatic founder Rev Kong - who started the church in 1989 - and his singer wife Sun Ho.

It is unclear if the latter - who is believed to be in the United States with their son pursuing her career - would be able to shed any light for investigators.

As the news broke yesterday, cyerberspace was abuzz with questions, some from netizens who had pored over the church's financial records on its website.

One, for instance, wondered about its expenditure of $8,672,000 on multi-media related ventures from July 2007 to Oct 2009. Another asked why the church had changed its financial year-end twice in recent years.

Others called for further investigation into companies regularly contracted by City Harvest, and whether these were funded by church members, or had church members among its board members or shareholders.

When MediaCorp visited the church's Suntec Tower Three corporate office yesterday, a female staff member at the lift lobby said its office was closed to "give our staff a break" after a five-day conference that had ended Sunday.

As the church assured members of its full cooperation with the authorities - it has appointed law firm Rajah and Tann to act for it - members reacted with faith in their leaders.

Entrepreneur Elim Chew, the founder and president of streetwear company 77th Street, said: "I trust and believe in Rev Kong Hee." Ms Chew has attended the church for 20 years and said Rev Kong has been a "friend, brother and mentor".

Another member of two years said her confidence remains unshaken. "The church has always been very transparent in its financial matters - our financial statements are all online and everything is above board," said the 26-year-old, who works in public relations.

But Mr Terence Lee, 24, a university student and member of seven years, said: "The implications that someone could be misappropriating funds within the church disturbs me, and I hope this isn't the case."

Services, operations will continue normally: City Harvestby Zulkifli Bin Othman and Zulkifli Bin OthmanWhile investigations are being carried out, normal services and religious activities for City Harvest Church (CHC) members "need not be disrupted and can continue". This was the assurance from the Commissioner of Charities and the Commercial Affairs Department.

In a statement on its website, CHC executive pastor Reverend Derek Dunn also assured followers that "services and operations will continue normally".

"We're cooperating fully with the investigation of the alleged allegations and pray that you will not be alarmed," he wrote.

When contacted, the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS), of which CHC is a member, said it would be "premature to draw any conclusion at this point" as the investigation has just begun.

The statement, signed by NCCS president Bishop Robert Solomon and general secretary Lim Kay Tham, added that the council welcomes "a thorough investigation" to "establish the facts". "We believe the leadership of the church will co-operate fully with the authorities. We await the outcome".
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2010, 07:54:59 PM »

Store buzzes, Rev Kong silent, church's financials speak up
Chen Huifen
Fri, Jun 04, 2010
The Business Times


(SINGAPORE) It was business as usual at the Ed Hardy outlet at The Heeren, where funky T-shirts and jeans with loud and colourful prints are being sold at between $180 and $500. A sign near the entrance indicated that a sale was going on with up to 50 per cent discount. A jacket with the phrase 'You Only Live Once' - with artwork of a bikini-clad girl surrounded by roses - hung on a rack near the cashier.

There was also a T-shirt with a bulldog wearing a crown, above the words 'King of Beasts'. On display tables, there were canvas shoes with tattoo-like skeleton drawings.

There were a few curious walk-ins, obviously drawn by the cult fashion designs. But there was no sign of City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee who, with his pop singer wife Ho Yeow Sun, owns the Ed Hardy store.

Since falling into the limelight this week as one of the City Harvest Church members questioned by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), the Reverend Kong has not made any public appearance or given any update on his Facebook and Twitter pages. Notwithstanding ongoing investigations, credit has to be given to the church for its attempt at transparency.

According to checks by BT, City Harvest is the only mega church - and possibly the only church here - that posts its financial statements on the Internet for all to see. Going by its last audited financial year that ended in October 2009, City Harvest received $38.6 million of donations and earned another $2.4 million from a Bible training centre and in miscellaneous income.

But expenses came close to incoming receipts. Expenditure for the 12-month period was almost $40 million - much of it on staff salaries and allowances, which were $9.3 million or 23 per cent of total expenses. As at October last year, City Harvest employed 150 people.

The staff cost includes an annual wage bonus, a half-month bonus and a zero to two-month bonus given out in May last year. A footnote explained that the bonuses are given 'according to the prevailing civil service practice'.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows average annual remuneration per worker at the church was almost $62,000. On the other hand, Ren Ci Hospital, which had 431 employees, reported staff costs of $12.2 million, or just over $28,000 on average per worker. The Muhammadiyah Association of Singapore in 2008 reported staff costs of $666,000 - or just over $17,000 on average per worker. The Salvation Army, which has 328 staff, spent $7.5 million on employee cost last year.

Other than staff remuneration, the next biggest expense for City Harvest Church was 'other' operating and administration expenses, at $7.9 million. This was followed by spending on special events ($6.1 million), mission support and church planting ($4.9 million) and local community and charity work ($2.9 million).

Bank, cash and fixed deposit balances totalled $32 million. Including sundry receivables of $14.3 million, City Harvest had total assets of $111 million. Total funds were $103 million, including $65 million in the organisation's building fund. The church also recorded total liabilities of $7.6 million.

It is difficult to compare the church's financial performance with that of the previous year because of a change in financial period. Its FY2008 statement covers a 16-month period. And since no other church is known to make its financial statements public, it is also difficult to do an apple-to-apple comparison.

Known for its rock concert-style services, City Harvest Church was founded in 1989 by the Rev Kong, who is not on the church's payroll. Instead, he is said to support himself through his businesses and speaking engagements.

Other than the Ed Hardy outlet, he owns two boutiques under Skin Couture. He is also the co-owner with his wife of International Harvest, a provider of corporate training and motivational courses.
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« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2010, 10:37:05 PM »

Ordinary members 'have no right to attend general meetings'
City Harvest Church's constitution says only executive members are entitled to do so
by Neo Chai Chin
05:55 AM Jun 09, 2010 Todayonline


SINGAPORE - You may be a member of a church, but you may not necessarily be able to attend its annual general meetings (AGMs) - and consequently, be privy to its annual report or financial statements.

According to City Harvest Church's (CHC) constitution, which MediaCorp has obtained a copy of, ordinary church members have "no right to attend General Meetings".

Only executive members - such as pastors, the board of directors and cell group leaders who have served at least three years - are entitled to do so.

This could explain why some church members have written to the Commissioner of Charities, following CHC's indirect $310-million purchase of a stake in Suntec Singapore's convention centre.

Mr Simoh Teoh asked the COC to request the church's board to review its constitution to "find ways to promote more accountability and transparency to its members".

He wrote that the board had utilised the church's building fund and committed it to "future liabilities" without consulting members at its latest AGM.

But while this may go against the spirit of accountability to donors - as stated in the Code of Governance for charities - corporate governance expert Lan Luh Luh noted that non-compliance with the Code is not a crime.

But the organisation would have to explain why it could not comply, said Associate Professor Lan, co-director of the National University of Singapore's Corporate Governance and Financial Reporting Centre.

"The sector administrator would try to work with the organisation to see how to help it to comply (for example, give it time to change the constitution), and only if it deems (the situation) severe would there be any action taken," said Assoc Prof Lan.

The COC's annual report is expected to be released within the next two months.

Meanwhile, the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) said that while it encourages members to comply with the Code, it is a voluntary association and each member determines its own policy and action.

CHC is a member of NCCS.

NCCS does not oversee its members' financial matters, said its general secretary Lim K Tham.

Whether members are able to attend AGMs depends on how their church is incorporated, he added.

Members of churches registered as societies are entitled to attend AGMs. City Harvest is registered as a society and a charity.

Some churches are, however, registered as companies limited by guarantee, and whether members are allowed to attend AGMs would rest on a document called a memorandum of association - which sets out the contract between the organisation and its members, said Mr Lim.

Another megachurch, New Creation Church, posted details yesterday of its five business entities on its website, as promised at its weekend services. The fact sheet includes information on the entities' shareholders and directors.

Sun Ho returning?
News of investigations into City Harvest Church-linked organisations and individuals has made its way to entertainment portal E!News.

In a YouTube video of an E!News Asia Headlines segment posted on Sunday, it was reported that pop singer Sun Ho, wife of City Harvest founder Kong Hee, is "rumoured to be returning to Singapore for the case". Ms Ho is said to be working on a new album in Los Angeles.

When contacted, the Singapore police were unable to verify reports due to ongoing investigations.

Last week, 17 individuals linked to the church were questioned by the Commercial Affairs Department for its probe into alleged misuse of funds.
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