Singapore Hindu Endowments Board to track all movements of gold at temples after ex-priest charged with misappropriating, pawning jewellery

02-Mar-2021 Intellasia | Today | 5:02 AM Print This Post

The Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) is improving the gold movement registers to track all movements of gold items within the four Hindu temples that it manages, after a former temple chief priest was charged with misappropriating and pawning gold jewellery.

Edwin Tong, minister for Culture, Community and Youth, told Parliament today that the temples’ management committees would tighten oversight of the gold inventories in their temples. HEB will also carry out more audits each year, including unannounced ones.

Tong was asked by Murali Pillai, Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok, if the HEB had done a review of the case at Sri Mariamman Temple and if steps were being taken to prevent a repeat.

Kandasamy Senapathi, the former chief priest of the 149-year-old Sri Mariamman Temple, was charged on February 16 with allegedly misappropriating 172 pieces of jewellery from Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple over four years. He later pawned them for more than S$2 million (RM6.09 million).

The 37-year-old Indian national faces five counts each of criminal breach of trust as a servant and of transferring some of the cash out of Singapore to India.

He allegedly misappropriated the gold ornaments, frequently used for prayers and kept in the temple’s inner sanctum, between March 10, 2016 and June 30 last year.

The court heard that he purportedly took the ornaments when he needed money, pawned them, redeemed them again when he had enough money to do so, then returned the jewellery to the temple.

Kandasamy has since returned all the items to the temple.

Tong said that the HEB conducts routine audits at all four temples, including Sri Mariamman Temple on South Bridge Road in Chinatown, to ensure that all ceremonial jewellery is properly accounted for.

The other three temples overseen by the board are Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon, Sri Sivan Temple in Geylang and Sri Vairavimada Kaliamman Temple in Toa Payoh.

After the incident at Sri Mariamman Temple, the HEB commissioned a special audit of gold inventory at all its temples to ensure that all ceremonial jewellery were accounted for. No other irregularities were found.

The board has since also worked with the Commissioner of Charities to review and strengthen its governance and internal controls, to ensure proper safekeeping and management of gold items.

It will continue working with each of its temple management committees to prevent abuse and flouting of governance controls.

“HEB, in collaboration with the Commissioner of Charities, will also be sharing the lessons from this episode and best practices with other Hindu temple charities, so that all temples can do their part to continue to improve the management of the temples,” Tong said.


Category: Singapore

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