As more juicy details from the Renci case emerges, Singaporeans must be wondering what is going on in our charities. This is the latest in a number of scandals - NKF, Youth Challenge, St John's Home for Elderly Persons etc. When you have a lot of money lying around without processes and checks in place, you can expect people to be tempted and dip their hands into the cookie jar. Honest people can become less honest...and totally dishonest people will try to get into these institutions by looking honest.
Other than charities, we also had numerous corporate scandals in the past few years. Other than those involving Chinese companies (too many to name) listed on the SGX, there were a number of corporate scandals among Singapore companies - Citiraya, JEL and ACCS had CEOs who cooked their books. A number of these CEOs were also Enterprise 50 (E50) and were held up as role models for budding entrepreneurs before the scandals broke. I took a particular interest in the Citiraya case because of the number of people involved to perpetuate the fraud. Citiraya was an electronic waste recycler that found a way to make more money. Companies like Nokia, AMD and Seagate sent its electronic parts to Citiraya to be destroyed and have precious metals extracted. Citiraya realised that it could make more money by reselling these parts to companies in China. To do this the CEO bribed employees from 3M, Advanced Micro Devices, Seagate and STMicroelectronics[Link] who were suppose to witness and verify the destruction of the electronic components. Citiraya's CEO Ng Teck Lee fled with $72M and has not been caught[Link]. This case tells us a lot about honesty and people - many will take bribes if they believe they won't be caught.
There were also scandals in private schools. A number closed down after collecting student fees. One feller teaching options trading was found to have used a fake Phd [Link]from a degree mill...the same chap also promised people attending his course that he could teach them strategies that will make big trading profits. I wonder why so many people fell for something so obvious - if this guy has the holy grail of options trading why does he need to teach to earn money. Maybe some people thought that he was just kind and wanted to share....if he was so kind, why was he charging upwards of $3K for a 3-day course? ...yeah and why did all of us go to school for 20 years to get our qualifications when all we need is a 3-day course to make loads of money?!
All these cases tell us a number of things:
1. You simply cannot trust people to handle money when there are no checks in place.
2. When there are processes in place, crooks try to get around them sometimes by bribing the people checking on them. You need external auditors....and you need to rotate people.
3. Crooks are attracted to institutions like charities which people tend to trust.
4. Transparency is important. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. People behave better when they cannot hide information.
5. What is too good to be true usually is....magic healing stones? Nigerian scam...extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.
My advice is to view everything critically with a healthy dose of skepticism. Now watch this video.
Wah...one of the tricks people learn quickly in life is most people judge a book by its cover. If you want people to trust that you're a qigong master, you should dress like one. Notice the table cloth? No transparency on what is beneath the table. Being able to move things without touching them is extraordinary ...so remember extraordinay claims require extraordinary proof. This chap is good enough to appear on the news....can you trust everything you see on the news and read in the newspapers? Is qigong for real? [Answer here]. ...and where did the amazing powers of the qigong master in the video come from....springs...yes springs. Thanks to Lim Leng Hiong who posted in the comments section this link on how it was all done: [Link]