“This is a grave situation,” Mr John Ting, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Methodist Book Room (MBR) said with a heavy heart while making his report during the recent Annual Conference.
The MBR of Sarawak Methodist was set up in 1955. During its 62- year history, an unfortunate incident of the biggest embezzlement was uncovered this February. On 20 January, 2017, the manager of MBR discovered that two of their staff had embezzled money. Accompanied by the Chairman of the Board of Directors, they lodged a police report. Subsequent investigations showed that more than RM1 million was misappropriated.
As a former Executive Director of a bank and a voluntary treasurer of SCAC as well as the Chairman of the Finance Board, Mr John Ting expressed his sadness in the late discovery of the case. “Because of our church culture, we are inclined to put great trust in our staff,” he bemoaned. As a former banker, Mr Ting said that he was very meticulous about the honesty and work ethics of his staff. However, in the church setting, Mr Ting conceded that people would tend to be displeased if too many questions were being asked.
Mr Ting said that the main culprit, Tiong, claimed that she was conned by scammers and had transferred money to different banks. Up to 31 October, 2017, Tiong had forged signatures on 133 cheques, totalling a sum RM1,463,024.
103 cheques had been confiscated by the police for further verification. The rest of 24 cheques are still with the bank pending investigation. Verified fraud totalled RM 1,029,269.
After reporting to the police, Mr Ting said that he, the MBR manager, and the treasurer had been summoned four times to the police station to assist investigations. The other four MBR staff were also questioned by the police several times. Taking full responsibility and accountability, Mr Ting and 9 other directors as well as the MBR manager Ling, had resigned from their respective posts on 19 October, 2017.
Mr Ting further disclosed that the account reports requested by the police from 1 January, 2016 to 31 January, 2017 of the MBR are still under audit by an accounting firm and the report shall be submitted before 31 January, 2018.
Due to its present predicament, MBR has ordered less supplies for its store. A decrease in sales turnover is expected this year.
Rev Wong Kiu Nguok, a retired pastor, empathised by quoting a similar incident years ago in Sabah where she had served. The incident had brought great damage to the church. “It is our human weakness that we need to be very cautious,” said Rev Wong.
SCAC President Rev Dr Tie King Tai cautioned all that one of the twelve disciples had betrayed Christ Jesus out of greed. “Hypothetically speaking, if we apply this as a ratio of comparison (12:1), then there could be more than thirty of us who are money-lovers among the 400 Annual Conference representatives.”
Each and every one of us need to take heed indeed!