Disclosures, transparency and accountability

Hi everyone,

This year marks the fifth anniversary of The Online Citizen (TOC).

TOC has managed to grow despite all the challenges that faced us over the years. Just this year, we were gazetted as a political association, faced both manpower and server issues while covering the recent General Elections, and had a Chief Editor leave at short notice. But we faced up to, and overcame, each and every one of those challenges head-on.

For that, we have to thank everyone who has helped to make TOC and our GE coverage a success: our former Chief Editor Andrew Loh, our contributors, our volunteers, our supporters and well-wishers, and you, our readers. And of course, our donors, whose immense generosity has helped to keep the website going.

Since the GE, and after spending time stabilizing the team after Andrew’s departure, we have been thinking hard about the future plans of TOC. We also recognize that there have been valid calls made, for TOC to be more transparent and accountable to our donors on how funds are being used.

We therefore intend to publish an annual report in early 2012, which will review our work in 2011 and also include a statement of our accounts for 2011.

A significant part of our projected expenses will go towards staff costs. To accomplish all that we want to, we will need full-time staff. We have had to make do with volunteers and a part-time intern (to whom we paid an allowance) in the past; we do not think that this is viable in the long term.

We had therefore engaged Kirsten Han as Deputy Chief Editor on a part-time basis, paying her an amount of S$500 per month. We have also engaged Jewel Philemon as a full-time editorial assistant up to mid-October, paying her an amount of S$800 per month. Our current Interim Chief Editor Ravi Philemon will continue to serve on an unpaid, voluntary basis.

(Disclosures: Kirsten is now part of the TOC core team, but the decision to engage and pay Kirsten on a part-time basis was made by the TOC core team before she joined us as Deputy Chief Editor. In addition, Jewel is Ravi’s daughter, and the decision to engage and pay Jewel on a full-time basis was made by the TOC core team as a whole excluding Ravi.)

Kirsten and Jewel both do a multitude of things for TOC behind the scenes, such as copy-editing, moderating comments, and uploading articles. In many ways, TOC can continue running without many of us, but it will almost certainly grind to a halt without Kirsten and Jewel. We therefore think that it would only be fair for them to get some compensation for all the time that they spend working on TOC.

We believe that these decisions are necessary for TOC’s stability and long-term viability. In the past, TOC has constantly struggled for survival. We want to move beyond that. We see remuneration for people spending substantial time on TOC as a necessary step, in placing TOC on a firm footing for its sustainable future growth.

But of course, we will always need our contributors and volunteers to continue with their valuable inputs. Because without you, our contributors, volunteers, readers and donors, without all the brave and committed Singaporeans who have helped make TOC what it is and who inspire us every day, TOC is nothing.

Please stay tuned for more news about our upcoming plans. In the meantime, thank you again for all your support and encouragement.

Yours faithfully,

Choo Zheng Xi
Joshua Chiang
Kirsten Han
Leong Sze Hian
Ravi Philemon
Siew Kum Hong