Encouraging skills-based volunteerism within the accountancy sector
Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at the “Growing Skills-Based Volunteerism” MOU Signing Ceremony between SG Cares Office and Institute Of Singapore Chartered Accountants
10 May 2021
Mr Teo Ser Luck, Advisor of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA)
Mr Kon Yin Tong, President of ISCA
Mr Lee Fook Chiew, CEO of ISCA
Ladies and gentlemen
- Good morning everyone.
- Happy to join all of you today, at this MOU signing ceremony between SG Cares Office and the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, or ISCA.
- If there is one thing I would like to emphasise, it is that the community will benefit immeasurably, from the skills that we put in. It is one thing to put in money and another to be a volunteer on the ground. The purpose of the MOUs with different professional organisations that we have been reaching out to, is to get from each of you, the skillsets that we cannot acquire so easily. In this context, ISCA is going to lean forward and I am very thankful for them to help benefit the community and organisations, to ensure financial propriety and more importantly, governance, for all our charities.
Demand for skills-based volunteerism from the non-profit sector
- When we look at the caring landscape, a few calls-to-actions come to mind. These usually include:
a. the giving of money through donations;
b. the giving of goods and items through in-kind contributions. I know those of you who work on the ground will know that donors are quite forthcoming. However, there may be instances whereby there’s too much of it, usually because there is a lack of coordination. So, what SG Cares does is to lean forward with some structure in the way we deliver services, to the last mile, to the last beneficiary on the ground. This will ensure that no one will get, through goodwill, too much of the same things.
- Beyond this, the giving of skills through skills-based volunteerism is equally important.
a. While the non-profit sector is primarily equipped with skills to address cause-related issues, non-profit organisations, or NPOs, may not have the same access to resources to manage corporate functions or have accountancy and legal expertise.
b. You can assist with schooling, rations, food and items and so on, but the professional aspect of it as mentioned, is somewhat lacking. And I am very grateful to ISCA and many other professional bodies who have come forward to sign the MOU with us.
c. Because these functions are instrumental in helping non-profit organisations operate effectively, transparently and efficiently.
The importance of accountancy in the non-profit sector
- Accountancy support is crucial for NPOs to uphold strong governance and accountability.
a. Many NPOs benefit from the trust and altruism of donors, and the general public. The scale of donation that came in last year has shown that Singaporeans are empathetic and charitable. There also needs to be accountability with what we do with the funds, how we deploy it, and we account to the donors with regards to the usage of these funds.
b. Donors contribute because they believe in the causes – causes of the various NPOs.
c. NPOs, in turn, benefiting from the taxpayers, must account for how they use the funds.
- NPOs have a duty of stewardship over resources put under their charge, and upholding the reputation of the sector.
a. At MCCY, we take this especially seriously for registered charities and IPCs.
b. Every NPO has a part to play. Very often, a minority number of NGOs or one bad apple can often lead to a tarnishment of the entire sector. That is what we want to avoid.
- In addition, accountancy and financial management skills can complement other social services to promote social mobility.
a. If we picture social services as a value chain across a spectrum, apart from meeting the needs of families and individuals, we must promote social mobility. It is one thing to help them with their current needs, but it is quite another to lead them out in needing that help in the first place.
b. This can be done by uplifting vulnerable groups through the imparting of skills and knowledge such as financial management and career counselling.
c. For example, skills like basic accounting can encourage expense tracking, thereby promoting a healthy and sustainable household budget. And having someone mentor or be a role model for, will be inspiring for the next generation. We want to make sure that each vulnerable family has a way to get out of that cycle.
- Therefore, the role of accountancy in the non-profit sector cannot be understated.
a. The non-profit sector needs good and qualified accountants to lend professional skills.
b. That said, accountancy is a professional skill which may not be easily available to NPOs, especially the smaller ones with less resources.
- And so, this MOU in intended to try to reach out to the industry and the sector. It will see SG Cares Office partnering with ISCA to:
a. raise the awareness and interest of skills-based volunteerism to ISCA members;
b. grow the pool of volunteers from the accounting and audit sector; and
c. inculcate the values of care, consideration and contribution in the profession.
The meaningful work of ISCA Cares
- I know that contributing to the community is not new for ISCA.
a. In 2015, ISCA established the charity ISCA Cares which represents the collective effort of the accountancy profession to give back to society.
- I am happy to know that ISCA Cares has two very meaningful focus areas.
a. The first is on our future – where ISCA Cares provides youths from disadvantaged backgrounds with quality accountancy education through financial and non-financial assistance.
b. In view of the difficult economic climate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ISCA Cares awarded a record $164,000 to 83 beneficiaries, who are known as ISCA Cares Ambassadors.
c. Along with financial help, each ISCA Cares Ambassador also benefits from an internship and mentorship programme.
d. For example, Chermaine Pung, who was a recipient of the ISCA Cares Bursary in 2017 and 2018. Under the ISCA Cares Mentoring Programme, she was mentored by Ms Jocelyn Goh, Partner at BDO LLP, and Mr Lee Mong Sheong, Partner at RSM Chio Lim LLP. This something that we should do more, where those of us with an experience or a career in accountancy can share this with the young people coming through. And through that lens, inspire, motivate and lend a helping hand to someone young, making his or her first foray into the profession.
e. I am pleased to know that Chermaine is not only a receiver of ISCA Cares, but also an active giver to the community. She has been volunteering since 2016 with Runninghour, a club which provides support to people with special needs through physical exercise. These examples of paying it forward is very heart-warming.
f. The second is on the community – where ISCA Cares harnesses the knowledge, skills and expertise of the accountancy community for appropriate development projects through collaborative programmes with partners.
g. This includes providing pro bono audit services or assisting charities with accounting and compliance matters. Very often, this remains deprioritised, especially in smaller charities. For various reasons, having accountability to the public needs to be put out front.
- I believe that today’s MOU will provide the accounting fraternity with more opportunities to build on what we have set out to do.
The building of a more caring society is the responsibility of everyone
- I would like to stress that the building of a more caring society is the responsibility of everyone, not just one sector or the government alone. We need everybody to come together to bring Singapore forward. In our initial years, looking at the Maslow hierarchy of needs, we made sure that we look after our healthcare, our education, our transport and so on. But today, the one quality that will be enduring and will bind Singaporeans, to inspire more Singaporeans to come forward to volunteer, will be the culture of care.
a) Through SG Cares initiatives, efforts of different strengths can be complemented to make a larger collective impact. Not all of us are equally able or similarly advantaged, but I think if we put it together, we will be stronger than the sum of its parts.
b) For example, SG Cares Volunteer Centres, or VCs, will be expanded, and I made this announcement in the parliament, to all 24 towns by March next year, to ensure that every town will benefit from the structure and organisation, and the aggregation ability of the VCs to look after the SSAs on the ground. They will be a coordinating node to grow volunteerism, build volunteer management capabilities and foster meaningful partnerships. And, as far as possible, not to replicate existing networks and goodwill already generated by SSAs on the ground, but to lean forward to help them serve their beneficiaries even better.
c) VCs should partner with ISCA to bring accountancy skills to more non-profit organisations and uplift the whole sector.
- This MOU is a start to a journey:
a. where ISCA’s good work will be multiplied, there is a lot of synergy with the work we do at MCCY; and
b. together with SG Cares Office and through the SG Cares Volunteer Centres, ISCA will be able to reach out to more non-profit organisations within the community.
- I thank everyone for taking time off, not only today, but over the years and over long periods of time, working through ISCA Cares and other programmes to give back to the community.
a. I applaud the many who have chosen to give back to society, beyond the hours and certainly, beyond the call of duty. It is because of these efforts that we really have a lot of optimism for the future of Singapore.
b. Because of you, we are able to forge forward together, and build a caring and inclusive home for all. And I am very confident that this MOU that will be signed shortly, will be a great stepping stone in time to come.
- Thank you very much.
Last updated on 10 May 2021