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Monday, 16 June 2014

‘Donors have no say over funds’

Back to work: Pusparani resuming work as a cleaner at Changi Terminal 3. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Back to work: Pusparani resuming work as a cleaner at Changi Terminal 3. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

WHEN Malaysian cleaner Chandra Mogan Panjanathan, 34, was killed in a freak accident at Changi Airport two years ago, Singaporeans dug into their pockets to help his widow and children.

Pusparani Mohan and her four children received close to S$1mil (RM2.6mil) in donations and insurance payouts. But the 34-year-old Malaysian quit her job as a cleaner, returned to Malaysia and lost all that money in just one year.

Pusparani’s story, reported in The Sunday Times last week, left many readers angry. But a lawyer said that in her case, it was hard for donors to control how she spent the money.

If the donations were channelled to her without any written agreement to set out her boundaries and obligations, then donors had no say over how she spent the money, said lawyer Chia Boon Teck of Chia Wong LLP.

“Because the donations came from many sources, no one donor can take charge of the total donations,” he said. If there had been just one donor, the person could have set up a trust fund to spell out how the beneficiary should spend the money, he added.

With many donors involved and no one party able to dictate terms, the donations were made on the assumption that the beneficiary would spend the sum responsibly, he said. Few would check how the money given was used.

“The feel-good factor about giving a donation lasts for a few minutes. Nobody wants to be saddled with the responsibility of having to monitor the usage of donations,” he added.

Such a scenario was one of the factors that led to the setting up of the Ray of Hope Initiative in November 2012, one of its founders said.

The non-profit organisation wants to be the middleman connecting those who are featured in the media after suffering a sudden crisis, with donors who want to help but do not know how to get the money to them.

Its manager Sharmin Foo, 34, who declined to comment on Pusparani’s case, said the organisation takes a structured approach.

She said it “works with the beneficiaries to estimate income and living expenses, how much their children’s school fees are, debt and medical bills” before funds are raised.

Disbursements are then made in instalments, sometimes in the form of vouchers to ensure that the money is used appropriately. The group also keeps in touch with both donors and recipients.

But Chia said it would still be a challenge for a group based here to make monthly disbursements to Pusparani or monitor her expenditure, as she and her children live in Malaysia.

Separately, “another fairly common scenario” is when one parent dies, leaving the surviving spouse to administer the estate, he said. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Tags / Keywords: Regional , world


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