PETALING JAYA: At least two religious bodies have warned Malaysians to be careful of those seeking donations in their names.

Representatives of the Federation of Taoist Associations Malaysia and the United Sikh Association said they have strict procedures for fundraising and do not collect monies from the public without following the procedures.

They were commenting on scammers and fraudsters who were preying on the public at coffee shops, malls and other venues to collect funds for themselves while claiming to be from religious or charitable organisations.

Even the Penang City Council (MBPP) recently reminded the public to be wary and not be hoodwinked by fake monks roving around the island.

MBPP councillor John Ooh Sin Hwa said there were complaints from the public who chased away foreign nationals disguised as monks who take advantage of the generosity of non-Muslims for alms in cash donations at markets and food courts.

Checks by theSun showed none of the religious associations allowed their representatives to “beg for money”, especially on the streets or other venues.

Federation of Taoist Associations Malaysia president Dao Zhang Tan Hoe Chieow said like many other religious organisations, Taoist associations and temples depend on donations from devotees to maintain their temples and carry out welfare activities like providing food and other essential items to the sick, needy, old folk homes and orphanages.

“Devotees would voluntarily put small donations into collection boxes placed at temples. For bigger donations, they would go directly to the management committees, which will issue receipts for the donations.”

Tan said for Taoist temples that are entitled to the Management Fund for Houses of Worship tax exemption, receipts will be issued to donors so that they can obtain tax relief.

“Funds can also be raised for specific purposes through fundraising projects or dinners,” he said.

He reminded the public Taoist associations will approach only devotees, friends, relatives and businessmen for donations. “Generally, Taoist associations do not approach people they do not know personally, and they will never ask for donations from the public in shopping malls, food courts or shops,” he said.

Meanwhile, United Sikh Association activist Premraj Singh said gurdwaras have members who pay subscriptions on a monthly or yearly basis.

“These members are eligible for voting to select the gurdwara management committee.

“There will be annual general meetings (AGM) and at the AGM, members will elect a committee consisting of 11 to 13 members,” he said, adding that the committee will manage the gurdwara for a two-year term before the next committee is elected.

“For every gurdwara, there is a giani (priest) who manages the prayers and religious matters. The giani can promote a donation drive by posting it on social media like everyone else. But he is not duty-bound or expected to lead the donation drive,” Premraj said.

“When there is a major project under the gurdwara, it goes first to the AGM for approval. The members have to approve the budget that will be presented by the committee members.

“Once the majority approve the budget and have given the green light to the management committee, it will prepare a write-up to raise funds,“ he said.

The donation can be channelled directly to the gurdwara and a receipt will be issued for the donation. The same practice applies to online donations as well, where funds are channelled directly to the gurdwara’s official account.

On donations to third parties, he said this is not encouraged as donated funds could be misused.