Channel News Asia, Singapore.
Friday, March 10, 2006.
By Julia Ng.
SINGAPORE : The National Council of Social Service has completed its work at the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped.
It spent four months cleaning up the association's poor practices and policies.
But NCSS is still not allowing the association to collect tax-exempt donations.
The task force moved in last year to put right the poor corporate governance practices and financial controls at SAVH.
The NCSS had earlier suspended its funding and SAVH's Institution of a Public Character, or IPC, status to discourage public donations.
That suspension will stay put for at least three to six months before SAVH can prove it has institutionalised the changes NCSS has put in place.
Said Benedict Cheong, CEO of NCSS, "The reason the task force is exiting at this point in time is to give the opportunity to take ownership of the issues, and the solutions that are already in place. We need to see that these solutions have stabilised over a period of time before we can be confident about giving them IPC status. When they're ready, they can apply again and we'll consider the IPC status."
One of the key improvements the NCSS Task Force made to SAVH is the recognition that the association must be led by people with the interests of the visually handicapped at heart.
This has led to some resignations of Board members, and change of leadership at SAVH.
Members have supported the return of its former president, respected writer Tan Guan Heng, who is also visually handicapped, to lead the association.
Telephone operator Lyn Loh resigned as president and the Executive Committee picked Tan to return to lead.
An Extraordinary General Meeting was called in February, and SAVH members roundly endorsed Tan as their new president.
Said Tina Hung, head, NCSS Task Force to SAVH, "The services that we've delegated to an alternative provider, those will carry on because those are critical services. And the task force's assessment is that SAVH perhaps wants to re-evaluate instead of biting off more than they could chew and try to hold on to all the services, because we believe that you don't have to be visually impaired to serve the visually impaired.
"We've urged them to work together with other VWOs in Singapore who are also able to service this group of people, so that they don't have to provide all the services by themselves."
The Society of Moral Charities, for one, was roped in to provide job matching, training and sheltered employment for the blind.
The society has just set up a social enterprise with the support of ComCare.
It is planning to start a massage-on-wheels service soon, which will train and provide jobs for over 40 blind persons. - CNA /ct
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