An investigation into a healthcare charity managing a private bone marrow registry here has concluded, with the authorities ordering it to rectify governance and administrative lapses uncovered.
At stake is the 24-year-old Bone Marrow Donor Programme's (BMDP) Institutions of a Public Character (IPC) status which allows it to raise funds from donors who enjoy a tax deduction - the lifeline for many charities here.
For now, it has been extended for just five months - renewals are usually given for a period of two years if no red flags are raised, say those familiar with the charity sector.
During this time, BMDP will have to work to restore faith in it, said Charity Council chairman Gerard Ee.
"They (BMDP) have to work hard at it, to restore the (donors') confidence. At the end of the five months, they have to prove they have put in place all the control procedures and improve on the processes," Mr Ee, a veteran of the charity sector, told The Sunday Times.
The Ministry of Health (MOH), which started a special audit into the BMDP in September last year, told ST that the BMDP Board has committed to specific follow-up actions in response to the findings, and other concrete steps to improve its administration and governance.
WORK TO RESTORE FAITH
They (BMDP) have to work hard at it, to restore the (donors') confidence. At the end of the five months, they have to prove they have put in place all the control procedures and improve on the processes.
MR GERARD EE, Charity Council chairman, on what BMDP has to do during the five-month extension of its IPC status.
A ministry spokesman said it is "closely monitoring the charity's progress in implementing measures to improve its administration and governance".
It declined to say what the lapses were or what changes the charity needed to make. But a draft report had earlier raised "critical and major" concerns after reviewing the charity's operations between 2013 and July last year.
In the meantime, MOH has extended BMDP's IPC status - which was due to expire on July 31, till the end of the year.
Added the spokesman: "In general, where governance weaknesses are identified in a charity with IPC status, but it demonstrates a commitment to taking the necessary measures to address the gaps, MOH may renew its IPC status, but for a shorter period while closely monitoring the IPC's progress."
BMDP's IPC status, which had earlier been given for two years, was renewed in May last year for just over a year. It was then given a three-week extension which would have expired on July 31.
BMDP receives major grants and donations from the public, as well as pledges from people willing to donate their bone marrow when a match is found.
It gets donations through third-party fund-raisers, gala events and grants. Its reserves have grown from $1.6 million in 2012 to $16.7 million last year.
When contacted, BMDP said it was "on track" for another record year as it has expanded its register by more than 27,000 new donors since January last year.
Added a BMDP spokesman: "This means we are more than halfway to meeting our three-year target of 50,000 new donor registrations by 2018."
The charity said that it was "delighted" to have retained its IPC status and "grateful for the support we have received from the public during this time".
"As a fast-growing organisation, we are committed to continually reviewing how we operate and, following MOH guidance, will be developing new policies to strengthen our internal processes to further enhance our life-saving operation," said the BMDP spokesman.
BMDP added that it will be adding two new board members with experience in both the charity and healthcare sectors.