Tuesday, December 4, 2012

CHARITY OR SCAM?






DONATIONS.....Datuk Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said emergence of foreigners seeking donations for children’s charity raises alarm among public.

By : JOANNA YAP

KUCHING: Representatives from foreign charitable bodies risk arrest if they solicit public donations without a licence, said Kuching District police chief ACP Roslan Bek Ahmad.

This warning came in the wake of the emergence of groups of foreigners here recently, claiming to collect donations on behalf of a children’s charity based in the Philippines which raised public concerns about their validity.

“It is punishable under the present law of Public Collections Ordinance 1996 (Chapter 21) under the Licence Application Form (Section 4 (1) (b).

“The district office will forward applications to the local police headquarters for background and security checks under the Special Branch and Crime Investigation Department (CID). If there are no objections, the application will be then returned to the district office for the licence to be issued,” Roslan told The Borneo Post here yesterday.

He warned that if a complaint had been filed against any charitable body and sufficient evidence found, the police can arrest and charge the suspect(s) under the said ordinance.

When contacted, State Police Commissioner Datuk Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani advised members of the public to be wary of such groups and check if they have valid permits.

He added that the police had to provide background checks to ensure that the funds collected would not be used for detrimental purposes including criminal or terrorist activities.

“There’s no case or arrests this year so far. So if the public feel they have been harassed by this group of people or suspect that they are up to no good, they can report to the police.”

Acryl also advised members of the public to insist on seeing letters from the respective charitable organisations authorising the individual(s) to collect public donations on their behalf as well as permits from relevant local authorities.

Local university lecturer Chai Shin Yi, 31, and a friend were solicited for donations last Friday night by a group claiming to be from the said charity as they were dining at a cafe at Tabuan Plaza.

There were at least three individuals in the small group going table to table to serenade people. One was strumming a guitar and singing Michael Jackson’s “Heal The World”.

When they reached Chai’s table, a young lady who appeared to be the group’s spokesperson placed a pledge card and a pen on the table and asked them for donations.

Chai said the group stopped singing and left as soon as she and her friend politely declined to make a contribution.

Later Chai and her friend did an online search on the children’s charity and discovered that while there was a charity organisation bearing the same name in the Philippines, the address listed on the website differed from that listed on the pledge card offered by the young lady.

Chai told The Borneo Post that although the group was not aggressive, she felt that they knew what to say and do to subtly pressure people to donate funds by putting them on the spot.

“If I had been by myself, I probably would have given them something, but because my friend was with me, I did not cave in,” she said.

Chai said she was “quite curious” to know if the group really represented a legitimate charitable cause. She also questioned the rationale behind spending so much money to send volunteers so far away to solicit donations.

“If they are for real and they get sent over here, it costs money to send them here, to let them stay here, for flight tickets, accommodation and so on. It doesn’t make sense to me to send them overseas to get money when they could use the money spent to send them over here for the foundation,” she said.

Meanwhile, a check with the relevant authorities revealed no records of charitable bodies from the Philippines applying for licences to collect public donations in Kuching over the past 12 months.

Organisations wishing to apply for licences must submit personal identification documents, legal documents and financial statements, amongst others, with their application as proof that they are legitimate entities.

Applications for Kuching are approved by the Resident’s Office while applications to collect statewide must go through the State Secretary’s Office.

Applications for permits to collect donations in Kuching are vetted by the local police while applications for statewide permits are sent to KL to be vetted by Bukit Aman. (BP)

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