This is the reason why.
We have two separate organisations in SGM, with different functions – the ‘faith organisation’ and the ‘secular organisation’. The faith is the one we are all familiar with and the chief responsibility is to promote kosen-rufu in Malaysia.
These functions include
- Shakubuku (introducing this practice to more people) and expanding the rank of Bodhisattva of the Earth in Malaysia
- Routine activities (discussion meetings, study meetings, home visits and personal dialogue) for the sake of sustaining and strengthening faith of all members, mutual encouragement and building bonds of friendship, and
- Training of leaders, without which we cannot expand.
In this ‘faith organisation’, the General Director is the central focus. He points towards the direction the organisation is to take and outlines the main aims of activities. The General Director and the ECC collectively, also provide encouragement and inspiration for all members in SGM.
The ‘secular organisation’ is responsible for the operation aspect. This include, and not limited to:
- Buildings, renovating and maintenance of community and culture centres
- Staff salaries and remuneration
- Money matters – members’ contribution
- Ensuring all activities of SGM abide by the rules of Registrar of Societies (ROS)
To protect the ‘faith organisation’, this ‘secular organisation’ must have strict controls on money matters and major decisions that can affect the organisation’s reputation and trust adversely. This is why good governance is so crucial.
The secular part has its own rules and principles. They are complicated, cumbersome and even expensive to implement. But it is certainly much more expensive and damaging to NOT have such good governance to govern the top executives. Particularly so in a religious organisation like SGM.
Some readers on this blog are pissed at us citing City Harvest as an example. But it is a fact. A genuine risk. It has already happened in SGM itself – Johor and Kuala Lumpur, with approximately 400 and 100 leaders in respective states, resigned.
This, however, is not our biggest problem. Our biggest problem is that we have not learn despite paying a most punishing price.
What have we not learn?
The problem lies in confusing the ‘faith organisation’ with the ‘secular organisation’. When there is allegations of mishandling of money in SGM, it is purely a secular issue. SGM was caught without proper controls and top executive, the ex-Johor Region Chief and State Chairman in this case, was not competent in secular matters. He is not even aware that opening ‘secret accounts’ and having SGM’s cheques written to his own name constitutes serious offense in governance as a SGM State Chairman.
Unfortunately, the top executives of SGM chose to interpret the entire saga as ‘devils plottings to destroy us’ and ‘the devils of the sixth heaven attacking us.’ Shout till their voices grew hoarse, the facts remain they cannot give solid and clear answers as to what has transpired and be honest and transparent about the entire saga. This is what upsets and angered the thinking members in SGM.
When some persist in questioning, they were terminated as leaders. Others kept quiet but no longer trust SGM like they used to. The more gullible and innocent ones continue to carry out their activities, totally oblivious or choose to remain ignorant, thinking that everything is fine.
Using the allegory of the egg yolk and the egg-shell, the secular organisation is the egg shell that protects the yolk. It is indispensable. The principles of good governance must be incorporated and strictly followed. To do this, we must first learn the rules and how these secular organisation works. This is the only way to protect the faith organisation, bring everyone back to the fold and effectively put out the fire of frustration and anger simmering below.
Some top executive reasoned that we are a religious organisation, first and last. Not a corporate profit oriented organisation. If we start adopting these secular rules, we will have elections and transform into a horse trading, political jostling of people aiming for the top. Totally forgetting about the mentor and disciple relationship and divert all attention from kosen-rufu.
This is wrong. This is similar to using a motorcycle engine to fly a Boeing 747. The argument does not make sense at all. We cannot say that because accidents occurred in the past, therefore, we should stick to motorcycle engine. We cannot say religious organisations are different because it is also people who manage at the top. And people has the three poisons inherent in their lives.
Our top executives recently claimed that we have already hired an internationally renown firm, Crowe Horwarth, to audit the accounts in 2016. The report was presented in the AGM in May 2017 and we passed with flying colours. This is sufficient to say that there is no corruption or mishandling. Everything is ok.
Such justification does not hold water.
- We have not seen the said report. And we cannot take your words for it. We need proof. Documentary proof. Can SGM publish it? If we got nothing to hide, we should publish it. Doing so will gain SGM a lot of trust and confidence. Demonstrating that we really do not have anything to hide.
- We do not know what is the scope of the audit. Deloitte, also an internationally reputed accounting firm, also cleared 1MDB from any wrongdoings in their audit report and they are right. The reason is because Deloitte only look at the documents that are shown to them and not everything.
- An external audit, that Crowe Horwarth is doing, is only one small part of a larger process in controlling financial wrongdoing in large corporations. More importantly is how big decisions, like renovations and construction of new centres that costs huge sums of money, are made and who made them. Is there separation of powers? Are the people in the faith organisation the same individuals in the General Council?
- Has SGM conduct a forensic audit on the Johor accounts? And make the findings public? Since the saga had such a damaging effect to the trust level and also unprecedented resignations, isn’t a proper and thorough audit the right thing to do?
- Has SGM taken any concrete steps in the accounting and governance aspects to ensure that such problem in Johor does not repeat in the future?
In the ‘faith organisation’ we may not need to know everything that happens at the top. In the ‘secular organisation’, however, the opposite is true. Everything needs to be accounted for. SGM need to be as transparent as possible, observing strict governance rules and managed by qualified and competent individuals in the secular organisation.
Instead, we are being told repeatedly to trust the top executives as they were appointed by Sensei. Indirectly saying if you don’t trust the top executives then you don’t trust Sensei. That’s blind faith.
And we are also being told that those who ask these questions about governance are trouble makers, spy from the NBA and not to be trusted. These questions were similar to those asked by the Rescue group and it is therefore evil. Killing their reputation instead of listening to them to understand the real issue that’s troubling them.
We trust the top executives in the faith organisation. But in the secular organisation, trust is always the root of all problems and corruption. We simply cannot leave things to ‘trust’. We must have a strict system of controls, competent and qualified staff, clear structure of powers separation and transparency.