The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) underscored its commitment to high standards of governance and robustness in its internal systems.
The board today released a sweeping statement on its website refuting allegations of improper financial management and governance pressured against it.
These allegations came from recent online articles by a foreign writer, and Muis said it was his duty to respond.
Responding to an allegation of financial irregularities, Muis said that as statutory counsel, he is required by law to submit his audited financial statements to Parliament by June 30 of each year. These audited statements are posted on its website for public consultation.
In accordance with the requirements of the Office of the Auditor General (AGO) on the appointment of auditors, Muis changes its auditors every seven years. Its audited financial statements for fiscal year 2020 have been submitted to Parliament.
“Muis auditors have issued an unqualified audit opinion on these financial statements,” the board said, adding that it has a risk-based internal audit function where an annual review is performed by a independent auditor to ensure compliance with internal controls and procedures.
The conclusions and recommendations of the audit are presented to the Muis audit committee, which is chaired by a member of the board.
As a public body, Muis is subject to AGO’s audit every five years, he noted. Following the AGO audit in 2018, it formed a working group chaired by its CEO to review the findings and take action.
The board has implemented measures to address all of the audit observations except one that requires it to develop a new IT system, which is expected to be addressed by the end of the year. .
“Muis takes the audit observations highlighted by AGO very seriously and is committed to filling the gaps and further strengthening its financial controls and processes,” the board said.
The allegations against Muis come from writer Murray Hunter, who has published articles about the advice in online newsletters and the Hong Kong-based media outlet Asia Sentinel. He had previously accused Muis of having mismanaged a bequeathed property and of having committed an abuse of power in his ranks.
Responding to Mr Hunter’s accusation that Singapore’s mosques are facing a “chronic liquidity crisis,” Muis said the finances of mosques and religious Islamic schools, or madrasas, have remained stable and healthy here. Over the past five years, there has been a significant improvement in auditor reporting, where unequivocal audit opinions are now issued to 99% of mosques. This is compared to 77% of mosques in fiscal year 2015, he said.
Mosques and madrassas are financially stable despite the pandemic, and the council said it has turned to digital means to facilitate online donations. He also said more than 6,900 households have received zakat, or alms, assistance collected by Muis last year. Muis is consulting a committee, made up of religious and community leaders, on the collection and disbursement of zakat in accordance with Islamic law, he added.
Mr. Hunter had said in an article that there was “great concern” about the management of zakat.
Muis also provided an update on his investigation into a case of deviant teachings reported by The Straits Times last year, and said his teams had interviewed key people involved and were in the process of concluding the investigation. He will share the results with the public.
The board said that while it takes its governance and accountability issues very seriously and has strong processes in place, there is room for improvement and appreciates public feedback on how to further improve its processes. .
“We remain committed to serving the community in a full range of areas to support socio-religious life and the advancement of the community,” Muis said.