No accountability of public funds used by Temasek Holdings for philanthropic activities

By Leong Sze Hian

Temasek Holdings announced on Monday that it is setting up a new endowment fund to commemorate its 40th anniversary and will be putting S$40 million into the Temasek Emergency Preparedness Fund, which will help with programmes to enable people to be prepared and cope with different emergency situations.

The emergency situations include severe accidents, traumatic experiences, or environmental disasters such as the haze that affected Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia last year.

Temasek chairman, Mr Lim Boon Heng is reported to have said that the investment firm recognises that it is part of the wider community. Mr Lim is formerly a MP in parliament and former chairman of People’s Action Party

Temasek Foundation helps foreigners mostly?

According to the article “Temasek helps local needy” (Straits Times, Jun 26, 2009), in May 2007, Temasek launched Temasek Foundation.

In June, 2009, Temasek announced the establishment of Temasek Cares CLG Limited (Temasek Cares), an Institution of a Public Character that will focus on supporting the community in Singapore.

What’s the point of setting aside $1 billion or more in the Temasek Foundation to fund charitable work and promote good social causes, particularly in Asia, when we treat our needy Singaporeans with arguably,  such disdain and disrespect – spending just $102.4 million in a year on ComCare?

Also, how much and what proportion of Temasek Foundation’s funds and programmes are focused on helping Singaporeans?

Whose money is it?

Temasek’s funds and assets are originally derived from the Singapore Government, and these  indirectly belong to the citizens of Singapore.

Do other Government entities create philanthropic activities?

The answer I believe, is no.

Accountability to the people?

And is there any accountability to the people? I believe it is no as well.

Why? Because in my view, money which belongs to the government and the people, must be accountable to the people. Thus rightfully, only governments can make decisions of philanthropy as governments would be accountable to the people through Parliament.

In the case of Temasek, there may arguably, be a lack of accountability to Singaporeans in respect of its philanthropy. For example, Singaporeans may have no say or even know as to how, why and how much it decides to help which countries other than Singaporeans?

Most programmes help foreign countries?

Temasek’s chairman said in June 2009 that ““To-date, we have committed and contributed around S$1 billion directly and indirectly to the communities in Singapore and around Asia over the 35 years since our inception.”

According to its web site, most of its past and current programmes seem to be focused primarily on citizens of countries other than Singapore.

Why have most of its projects in the past and the present, been focused on citizens in other countries, and when did it start to have programmes that are focused on helping Singaporeans?

This begs the question – how much and what proportion of the funds disbursed have been for foreign projects, relative to helping Singaporeans?

How much of the approximate  $1 billion that Temasek Holdings has committed and contributed to the communities in Singapore and around Asia since it was set up in 1974 was  used  to help Singaporeans?

Don’t know how much reserves or how much help to Singaporeans?

For a nation to not know how much and what constitutes our reserves is one thing. Not being able to question how they are used and to what extent to help Singaporeans, vis-à-vis foreigners, is something else altogether?