FAS elections: Questions raised over $500k donation; Lim Kia Tong wants FAS, Ng to be fully transparent

FAS elections: Questions raised over $500k donation; Lim Kia Tong wants FAS, Ng to be fully transparent
FAS general secretary Winston Lee (right), then-FAS president Zainudin Nordin at a sponsorship event for the Young Lions last year. Photo: TODAY file photo
FAS now denies donating S$500,000 to AFF; says it was Ng’s Tiong Bahru that donated directly to regional body
Published: 11:13 PM, April 16, 2017
Updated: 11:39 AM, April 17, 2017

SINGAPORE — With the battle heating up between rival groups as the inaugural Football Association of Singapore (FAS) elections draws closer, the spotlight has unexpectedly fallen on ex-president Zainudin Nordin and general secretary Winston Lee.

In particular, the pair are facing a barrage of questions over a S$500,000 donation made by Hougang United chairman Bill Ng in 2014 to the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) for their Football Management System (FMS) from Team Game Changers and Team Lim Kia Tong (LKT), the two camps contesting the April 29 elections.

Ng, Game Changers’ presidential candidate, revealed on Thursday night (April 13) at a press conference that a total of S$850,000 was donated to FAS at their request through his clubs Tiong Bahru FC and Hougang United. 

Indicating that “none” of the other previous FAS council members knew about the donations, Ng directed the media to “call Winston Lee” if they wanted to query the funds’ usage.

Lee then issued a statement around midnight through FAS, claiming that Ng had “full knowledge” of how his donations were used. He added that S$200,000 went towards supporting the LionsXII in 2012, while Ng “supported” the FMS with the S$500,000 donation “to AFF through FAS”.

On Sunday (April 16), a FAS spokesman was reported in The Sunday Times as saying that it was Zainudin who approached Ng and asked if he would be keen to assist the AFF. The statement added that “Tiong Bahru FC studied the proposal ... (and) decided to support AFF’s initiative directly, and offered a $500,000 donation to AFF.”

For the second time in three days, Zainudin, a former Member of Parliament and now the deputy principal of ITE College East, did not respond to TODAY’s queries. He is listed on AFF’s website as Singapore’s council member for 2015-2019. He is believed to be a key member of the taskforce working on the Asean Super League. 

Lee is listed as the AFF’s alternate council member for Singapore, and sits on both the AFF’s finance and marketing, and development committees. Lee is also one of five vice-presidents at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), a post the AFF had nominated him for in March 2015.

TODAY asked Team LKT for their response to Ng’s claims that members of the previous council were in the dark over the donations. 

In a sternly-worded statement, ex-FAS vice-president Lim who is challenging Ng for the FAS presidency, said the S$500,000 donation was “never” discussed during his time and called on both FAS and Ng to show full accountability over the transactions. 

“This is a very serious statement, calling into question the financial integrity of the FAS and raises questions about the nature of the transaction,” he said. “The allegation raised cannot be left without a full and proper account of the facts.

“In particular, we are troubled by statements made surrounding the transaction of the amount of $500,000 made to the AFF by Tiong Bahru FC through the FAS, a transaction which was never raised in any FAS council meetings.

"We thus call on the FAS to be fully transparent on this AFF transaction and also to make public whatever information it has in relation to this matter, and other such transactions made by clubs controlled by Mr Ng to the FAS.”

Other Team LKT members  who were in the previous FAS council are Bernard Tan, Edwin Tong, S. Thavaneson, Razali Saad, Lim Tong Hai, Dinesh Nair, Michael Foo and Kelvin Teo. 

When contacted, FAS then said yesterday the “decision to donate was made by Tiong Bahru FC” and that “at no time did FAS donate to the AFF”.

“The FAS did not support the FMS financially,” its spokesman said. “This was a donation from Tiong Bahru FC to AFF, not FAS. As (such), it was never raised in any council meetings.

"The FAS acceded to the request of Tiong Bahru to help facilitate the donation to AFF and this was the extent of FAS’ involvement.

“It is clear that the amount of $500,000 was never meant to be donated to the FAS or any Singapore footballing activity. This was not a case of FAS accepting a donation and thereafter channelling the amount to AFF instead of using it for local football.”

FAS also “categorically” stated that Ng’s claims of donating a total of S$850,000 to FAS were “inaccurate”, noting the S$200,000 for the LionsXII came from a company and not Ng directly.

“He had supported the FAS through the Charity Golf Day and other events which raised approximately $15,000,” the spokesman said.

“We are transparent in our processes and dealings with our stakeholders, and all donations and sponsorships from our partners are recorded and accounted for.”

Although Ng had also indicated at Thursday’s press conference that he would not be pursuing the matter further, Lim retorted: “It is not sufficient for Mr Ng to simply say that he has already put the matter behind him, and has not even raised the issue in the three years since the donation was made.

"If a donation has been made by a football club, let alone such a large one like this, and the club apparently has no idea where the money has gone to, then the first thing it must do is to ask.  
“Anyone with an interest in financial integrity and proper management would want to know.

“As Mr Ng is vying for the top post in football in Singapore, in the interests of transparency and openness, we call on him to not only answer these questions but also to open, for public viewing, the accounts of Hougang and Tiong Bahru to allay public concerns.”

Earlier on Sunday, Sport SG, the governing body of local sports, sent out a statement calling for a full explanation from the FAS over how Ng's donations were used (read story here).

“Much has been reported about the management of large donations to or through the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), and the source and management of these funds,” a SportSG spokesperson said.

“As the sports sector charity administrator, Sport Singapore (SportSG) will require the new council to provide a complete and satisfactory report on the management of these matters.”

Team Game Changers did not respond to TODAY’s queries by press time. Their spokesman Steven Tan said the team will issue a response on Monday (April 17) instead.