NKF expects to hire new chief by Q3

Mr Edmund Kwok was fired for a "personal indiscretion" against a male employee. Police investigations are still ongoing.
Mr Edmund Kwok was fired for a "personal indiscretion" against a male employee. Police investigations are still ongoing.

Charity has finished shortlisting candidates; it also says ex-CEO's firing has not affected donations

Five months after the sudden sacking of its chief executive Edmund Kwok in November last year, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) has finished shortlisting candidates for the top job and expects a new CEO to be on board by the third quarter of this year.

The charity also told The Straits Times donations had not been affected by news of Mr Kwok's firing.

In fact, its 48th anniversary charity dinner on April 6 raised a record sum of over $1.1 million,well exceeding its target of $800,000.

Its spokesman said: "The NKF would like to thank all supporters and members of the public for their faith and trust in us. Rest assured that our services to patients and beneficiaries are carrying on as per normal and operations have not been affected."

Mr Kwok, 58, was sacked for a "personal indiscretion" against a male employee in his 20s, who reported the incident to his supervisor. The human resources department was then alerted.

Mr Kwok admitted to the incident in internal investigations and was dismissed, given the seriousness of what he had done, NKF chairman Koh Poh Tiong said at a press conference last November.

The NKF's lawyers also advised that a police report be made.

The police told The Straits Times investigations are still ongoing. It is understood Mr Kwok is being investigated for molestation.

Mr Kwok, who is married with two children in their 20s, declined to comment when approached at his house. He confirmed that he has spent the last few months "helping out" at his church, Zion Serangoon Bible Presbyterian Church.

On the church's website, he is listed as a church leader who has worshipped there for 41 years.

It was not the first time the NKF had been rocked by a scandal involving its CEO.

In 2005, details of former CEO T.T. Durai's $600,000-a-year pay cheque and first-class perks, his involvement in manipulating patient numbers as well as misuse of donations enraged the public.

These details emerged when Mr Durai sued Singapore Press Holdings over a Straits Times article that reported he had a gold-plated tap in his office toilet. Mr Durai and his entire board stepped down.

The charity lost many of its regular donors, which at its peak numbered around 250,000.

As of last month, the NKF has about 150,000 regular donors who give an average of $7.80 a month. It also had another 10,000 one-time donors, who gave anything from less than $10 to $2 million to sponsor the building of a dialysis centre.

In its last financial year, ending in June last year, it received about $22 million in cash donations.

The NKF is one of Singapore's largest charities, with close to 1,000 staff in its last financial year and more than 4,000 patients. It now runs 31 dialysis centres and seven more new centres are expected to be set up by 2020.

After Mr Kwok's dismissal, former CEO Eunice Tay was called back from retirement to take the helm while the board sought a new chief.

A five-member board search committee is scheduled to complete the interviewing process by the end of the month.

Mr Gerard Ee, chairman of the Charity Council and former NKF chairman, said: "The public is discerning and it can separate the incident (involving Edmund Kwok) from the NKF's overall governance. I think people have confidence in the NKF board that it has strong governance and a strong system of controls in place."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2017, with the headline 'NKF expects to hire new chief by Q3'. Print Edition | Subscribe