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Thursday January 24th 2019

CHC 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

Today Online

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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