Where do donations go?

I AM a stingy fellow when it comes to charity, and paranoid when someone asks me for cash on the street. It isn't so much disbelief, but more of trust.

Where does it go? Who gets it? Are you sure it goes to the charity and not some shady cartel which sends young children out to petrol stations to milk people in the cities while their master sits back and sings karaoke in some rural area?

These concerns once led to a two-hour discussion on the element of trust when it comes to charity when I was a student in UiTM. At the end, the others still failed to convince me to donate to the Palestinian cause.

See, charity and donations are about putting your trust in someone else to know what should be done with the money you gave them, for the good of others. But do you even know the person? Or the organisation they represent?

Of course under the Islamic concept of charity and giving donations, questioning raises doubts and thus, the amount given can then be considered as an insincere donation – not ikhlas.

I feel this is a reasonable stance to take in this day and age, when a donation can lead to a terrorist group spanning multiple nations and bombing concerts and holding an entire city under siege.

Their money had to come from somewhere, and while it could be from the sale of drugs or even smuggling, there must also be those willing to funnel money to such groups.

Perhaps not terrorist groups, perhaps hateful conservative religious groups with a political background that has nothing better to do than to trail and protest against a chief minister should he go break fast during Ramadan with Muslims.

Speaking of which, it is now Ramadan and it is time to pay the tithe – or as Muslims call it the zakat. You would notice Muslims lining up to face a man sitting at a small table and handing over a small amount of cash and reciting a prayer. This is mandatory during Ramadan until the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

And of course, I find myself raising the same old spectres when it comes to this tithe. To such an end, the state zakat establishment for Selangor does have an annual report which allows people to browse and figure out what it spends on, to a limited extent.

Unfortunately, they have yet to upload their 2016 report.

However, their 2015 report details that Selangor had 44,293 registered poor families in the state, and had dispensed RM676.05 million to such registered families and groups. The Selangor Zakat Council spent RM65.7 million to sponsor poor pupils and students, RM13.5 million for scholarships, and even RM14.3 million to repair suraus and mosques.

All of this, with RM78 million spent for administrative services.
Honestly, the Selangor Zakat Council does have its detractors on social media whenever someone sees a neglected poor person or family, but it is the same with any welfare programme which requires people to make an effort to register for aid, rather than go on a tirade on Facebook.

Yet at the same time, there is a need to correct a misconception: the council has been dispensing funds more than the total of its collections since 2013. For 2015, they had to disburse an additional RM48.8 million to the poor in the state over and above the collection of that particular year.

Thus, the council's plan to divest some funds to invest for future dispensation may be a wise strategy, unless we are keen to have either stricter enforcement for this mandatory collection, or have an auto deduction system.

It is with transparency of accounts and information made public, that gives people the trust and confidence to rely on the institution to not only collect their money but also to divest it as they see fit.

Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com