Citizen Nades - Account for every ringgit

"The cultivation and reinforcement of the integrity element among the athletes is important in enhancing the country's image in the sports field at the international level."
– (Former) Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission head, Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed

"In order to reinforce the integrity element in sports, it is very important to cultivate a work ethic that is really pure and full of integrity as central to the work achievement in a truthful manner. Therefore, a practice of high integrity needs to be devoted in all aspects to enable sports development which is entrusted to us can be fully carried out."
– Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin

THESE prophetic words were spoken at the closing ceremony of the "Program Merakyatkan SPRM" with Sports Commissioner's Office (SCO). Today, more than a year later, we still continue to come across lack of integrity among some officials in sports and social bodies.

Sports officials – appointed or elected – are akin to directors of commercial organisations. They are trustees of the shareholders' or stakeholders' money. They are required to be prudent in the expenditure and take all necessary steps to ensure the funds are used in the most appropriate way. Above all, the operative phrase is that "they must act as ordinary men of business".

Sadly, this has not been the case especially in the much-written about organisation called the Paralympic Council of Malaysia. Most recently, the Automobile Association of Malaysia has been embroiled in a similar situation.

That's where the similarity ends. In the case of the AAM, it has been stripping its assets to stay afloat while extravagant expenses have been incurred.

On Monday, members learnt the bitter truth – AAM is in deep financial trouble with liabilities over RM4.5 million. Besides, another RM750,000 – the earnest money received for the proposed sale of its building – has been spent.

But don't put the blame entirely on the officials. Members are to blame too. Records show that at past meetings, only a handful turn up to discuss important issues. An example is that only 14 members (including seven officials) were present and they unanimously agreed to the sale of a plot of land. In another instance, 22 members unanimously agreed to sell yet another prime property belonging to the AAM.

Such a problem is not restricted to just this organisation. In most instances, members continue to pay their subscriptions; enjoy the benefits and only start fidgeting when things go wrong.

Members of sports clubs and bodies, voluntary establishments, non-governmental organisations are all guilty of this apathetic attitude. Even donors and sponsors who sign hefty cheques as donations do not seem to bother how their money is spent.

The scandal involving football's world governing body – FIFA – is yet the biggest example of how lack of integrity and the mute response of delegates made up of affiliates made it the laughing stock of the world.
On the local front, we are often invited to fundraising events. Some have no qualms of dishing out RM5,000 for a table for dinner or a flight of four for a round of golf. But does anyone ask for figures after the event? Was the expenditure justified and how much of your RM5,000 went for "organisational" expenses?

Do the organisers bother to send a statement of accounts after the event? Should this be a pre-condition to you participating in their fundraising activity?

In the UK where donations are heavily regulated, fundraising think-thank Rogare outlined the fundraisers' accountabilities, and how those accountabilities ought to be regulated.

It argued that fundraising has been regulated along a consumer protection model that enshrines professional accountability only to donors but that consumption (the acquisition of goods and services for personal use) and donation (where a charity's beneficiaries are the real consumers) are quite different.

In a House of Lords debate on civil society last month, Conservative peer, Lord Balfe of Dulwich rebuked charities that are "out of touch", "apparently accountable to no one" and should face reforms to improve democracy and transparency.

"There are well-paid chief executives, in the name of professionalism, but apparently accountable to no one. They are less accountable than a trade union general secretary or a chief executive officer in a FTSE-listed company. They often exist in an area where there is no apparent democratic structure."

Now that the government has taken the steps to regulate political funding, is it not the time to take it a step further by making all non-political organisations to account for their funds too? After all, it is an open secret that some NGOs are arms of political parties through which funds are solicited and received.
And to both the sports minister and the MACC, please walk the talk.

R. Nadeswaran has been involved with non-political organisations for decades and is aware of their numerous shortcomings. Comments: