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jeudi, juillet 14, 2005

 TST 1: NKF 0 - Financial Fallout

Being a good girl and starting to make a dent in my reading lists on public relations online has changed my perspective on how the NKF is handling its lawsuit against Singapore Press Holdings.

Mistakes they've made:
1) Trying to function as a for-profit organisation

There is a reason why there is a bias against working in the non-profit sector for money: because there plainly isn't any. The NKF grew too big for its boots, earning enough money from their donations and government grants that they could afford paying their executives to great excess. At the same time, their name became so recognisable that the acronym "NKF" became a brand name, giving them the ability to function like a for-profit organisation, even managing to "branch out" into subsets of their main mission, like the Children's Medical Fund (CMF) and the NKF Cancer Fund, both of which, though good/noble/honourable, detract from their main mission.

The ironic thing about this is that most Singaporeans don't know that it isn't a non-profit organisation, not per-se, due to obscure accounting tax laws and whatnot. It's more like a government-funded operation - but really, what isn't these days?

2) Trying to take on the press, and their contractors
Singaporeans are pretty kiasee, but the NKF apparently thought that the reporters from TST were more desperate for a hot "gold plated tap" story than smart about their sources. Contractors love to talk. They can talk you into anything (even installing gold-plated toilet installations, as the NKF unfortunately found out.) In this case, they will talk to you to install the taps, then blab about it to the reporters, and now, they've proven that they'll even tell the judge what everyone told them.

And now the press is covering the story - the press whom you're trying to press a libel suit against. I'm sure honest and fair reporting is going on, but there's certainly a slant that's been given to things...

3) Not being transparent

a) On accounts matters
The NKF were not transparent about their executive salaries, their perks, their accounting. They lied about their $189 million reserves - I'm not sure if anyone remembers this, but they did try to cover up the amount they had in reserves BEFORE this number came out. Only AFTER they were found out did they say that the $189 million could only last three years "if stretched." And yet, today we hear Mr Durai saying "three years is an inaccuracy..." and the defense lawyer suggesting that it could last longer. (Today, 13 July 2005) In fact, someone on the boards has stated that the NKF now has closer to $262 million in reserves, while only spending a paltry $32 million on the patients themselves.

b) From their CEO
It could be that these sins of omission were due to the excesses of their CEO, now disgraced T.T. Durai. According to Rodney on soc.culture.singapore, he omitted plenty:

Did not disclose to his board he had other paid directorships;
Did not disclose to his board he had external business interest with
ex-NKF employeee and current board member;
Had a fleet of 8 cars at his disposal, and yet his personal Mercedes,
maintained at NKF cost, was used by his wife and family;

c) On their website
Go to http://www.nkfs.org.sg. There is NO mention of this lawsuit at all, nothing in their "NKF in the News" pages, nothing in their press release archives, that give any indication that the NKF is currently in the midst of a severely debilitating crisis of the nuclear plant meltdown kind. Nothing at all.

Perhaps their corporate communication staff are all trying to handle the hordes of reporters outside the courtroom? Or are they too, being shut out from the discussions, and are as bewildered as anyone else on the streets about their company's - oops, organisation's sins? Or maybe their webmaster is a disgruntled systems analyst who is secretly revelling in the media fallout that his organisation is currently undergoing.

Whatever it is, by totally ignoring everything, they've made a huge blunder. Public discussion abhors a vacuum, and in the presence of one, they'll take the news from the only other news source available - that from the Singapore press, whom the NKF currently has a suit against. Why send an ignorant public to your enemy's lair, hoping that they'll take the high road and sing your praises? Bad PR strategy there.

I now feel sorry for all the NDK dialysis patients whom the NDF have honestly helped - and for those who are on the waiting list for NKF aid. I anticipate that donations will decrease rather radically in these couple of months - at least until the end of the year - before things pick up again for Christmas. The trouble with this crisis for the layman is that now, nobody feels like donating to the NKF anymore, but at the same time, we do still feel for kidney patients who need dialysis. But we are reluctant to donate because we don't trust the NKF to do the right thing with our money anymore. Until public trust can be restored, the support (both financial or otherwise) for the NKF will continue to be on shaky ground.

[TST 1: NKF 0 - Financial Fallout]
Sngs Alumni @ 14.7.05 { 0 comments }


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