NHB to improve valuation processes after museum donation controversy
By Jeremy Koh | Posted: 18 April 2010 1833 hrs
SINGAPORE : The National Heritage Board (NHB) will improve its
valuation processes, in the wake of the controversy over the value of a
donation to the Peranakan Museum.
At the heart of the matter is the actual worth of a high-profile donation to the Peranakan Musuem originally valued at S$15 million.
The 300 pieces of Straits Chinese silverware and porcelain were a major gift to the museum in 2008, and earned the donors a prestigious award as well as significant tax exemptions.
But subsequent valuations went as low as under S$2 million.
As the saga unfolded, seven of the nine members of the Asian Civilisations Museum board, including its chairman, resigned.
When asked to comment on their departure, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Lui Tuck Yew said he would like their reasons to remain personal and confidential, unless the seven ex-members choose to reveal those reasons.
The couple who donated the items out of goodwill, Mr and Mrs Tan Eng Sian, were also identified and dragged into the situation.
"They did it out of goodwill, they did it out of altruistic reasons, and I'm most regretful our donor had to be involved in all this. I'm sorry it has caused them so much distress," he said.
Mr Lui said the valuation controversy is an isolated and rare incident. He hopes the saga will not affect the long-term relationship between donors and museums.
Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Tan have asked for their donation to be returned following the controversy. - CNA /ls
it's always assholes who ruin it for everyone..
just like the assholes who abused the kindness of the people that cause everyone to become cynical about charity, making it difficult for those who are doing real work to be hamstrung
Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Tan have asked for their donation to be returned following the controversy.
Lesson learnt. Don't give family heirlooms, priceless to ones but no value to others.
A MAJOR gift to the Peranakan Museum comes once in a lifetime. By inappropriate handling, the museum has deprived Singaporeans of a major Peranakan antique collection ('Museum returns 'major gift' to donors'; last Wednesday).
Surely, this must not happen again.
Australia has a government-funded cultural gifts programme which has a well-considered process that ensures a transparent and thriving relationship between donors and recipient institutions.
Apart from the usual experts, the programme's vetting committee comprises a tax department official. European countries and the United States have similarly well-considered programmes.
Under the programme, the donors can claim a tax deduction for their gifts. Valuers must be vetted and approved by the committee and tax deductions are allowed only upon the committee's approval. Recipient bodies must obtain the committee's approval for their programmes which are reviewed every five years.
Valuation is a stringent but fair process decided jointly by the committee, the approved valuers and the donor.
The Australian programme preserves the cordial relationship between the recipient museum and the donor.
Museums today cannot afford to disconcert serious collectors like Mr and Mrs Tan Eng Sian who donated the Peranakan collection, which the museum returned. Such collectors can benefit museums through regular loans, generous gifts and eventual bequests if the museums treat them appropriately.
For such benefactors, the significance of the tax deduction is its recognition of the value of their donation, not the deduction itself. Antiques and art are now so expensive that most museums cannot afford to buy them any more. Corporate governance has so severely constrained government and corporate citizens that it is hard to justify buying art and antiques.
Most museums acquire their collections by cash donations or in kind from serious collectors.
The tax deduction is only an incentive. The low tax rate in Singapore reduces this incentive, hence the need to make it 200per cent tax deductible. It is not a tax rebate.
That the Peranakan Museum - a national institution - would inconvenience a potential patron and benefactor by accepting his gift based on a valuation of $15 million by a valuer appointed by the museum, and then proceed to change that valuation through two subsequent lower valuations without due process is beyond me.
The manner in which it was done showed poor governance and was a disastrous public relations exercise.
It is time we had a proper programme for cultural gifts.
Dr Tan Chai Thiam