A private man's $600,000 pay – is it of public interest?
SENIOR Counsel Davinder Singh spent some time probing chief executive
officer T.T. Durai on the NKF's reluctance since 1999 to disclose the
salaries of its senior people.
Mr Durai confirmed that the issue never went away, and that the
organisation's position was that it would not disclose.
He said salaries are a very personal thing, and as a private person he
did not want his disclosed.
Also, revealing top officers' pay would have made it difficult to
He also saw no legal requirement to disclose his pay.
Mr Singh pointed out that even though there was no legal requirement to
release all the information included in the NKF's investment report to
the donors, that had been done.
Counsel said that the absence of legal obligations was therefore not an
Mr Durai replied: 'It is a personal matter.'
Counsel remarked: 'I do understand some of that because that is why
people travel first class and have a lavish suite for their privacy.'
He then asked Mr Durai if he thought the public ought to be told if a
charity decided to pay its chief executive $25 million a year – funded
Mr Durai said at first that he could not comment. But asked repeatedly,
he said it would be up to the board of directors. He also said he would
go along with the decision not to disclose even if the $25 million was,
as Mr Singh put it, 'grossly, grossly exorbitant'.
'I report to the board,' Mr Durai said.
Counsel then moved on to the issue of Mr Durai's pay.
· Davinder Singh: In your affidavit, you liken yourself to CEOs of
companies and ministers in government, right? Would you agree with me
that like ministers in the government, you are being paid out of
people's money? Would you agree with me that ministers' salaries are
T.T. Durai: Yes.
· Davinder Singh: Would you agree with me that CEOs of listed companies
have their salaries published in the newspapers?
T.T. Durai: Yes.
· Davinder Singh: And you have likened yourself to CEOs of public
companies. Why are you not publishing your own information?
T.T. Durai: I like my salary to remain private. My board members know
that. My senior colleagues know that.
· Davinder Singh: We all like our salaries to be private. But if it's
funded by the public, which takes precedence? The right of the public to
know how much of their money goes to you, or your preference for
T.T. Durai: I think it is for the board to decide. The public doesn't
control the organisation.
· Davinder Singh: Exactly. Exactly. You see, Mr Durai, the public does
not control, it doesn't have access to information. So doesn't that
place on you a responsibility?
T.T. Durai: We comply with all the regulatory requirements. If the
regulatory authorities imposed a condition that we have to disclose
salaries, we would.
· Davinder Singh: Mr Durai, can you tell this court what your salary
and bonuses were for 2002?
T.T. Durai: I was earning a monthly salary of $25,000.
· Davinder Singh: And your bonus?
T.T. Durai: Performance bonus was 10 months.
· Davinder Singh: Ten months' bonus! $250,000 bonus. This is for 2002.
T.T. Durai: I cannot recall the exact figure.
· Davinder Singh: So, if it is $25,000 a month, multiply that by 12,
your total package was $550,000 in 2002.
T.T. Durai: I believe so.
· Davinder Singh: 2003, please?
T.T. Durai: You have the numbers. I don't have the numbers offhand.
· Davinder Singh: Tell us, please, so that we don't waste time.
T.T. Durai: About the same I think. I cannot tell you offhand now.
· Davinder Singh: About the same, meaning $550,000 or slightly higher?
T.T. Durai: About that.
· Davinder Singh: How many months' bonus did you get in 2003?
T.T. Durai: Twelve months.
· Davinder Singh: In 2004, what was the bonus?
T.T. Durai: Same bonus.
· Davinder Singh: Twelve months at $25,000 a month.
T.T. Durai: Yes.
· Davinder Singh: So for the past three years you have earned about
$1.8 million from the NKF.
T.T. Durai: Yes.
· Davinder Singh: And the man who earns $1,000 a month who takes out
$50 of his pay packet every month thinking that it is going to save
lives, should he not know that that is the kind of money you earn?
T.T. Durai: There is nothing wrong with the money I earn.
· Davinder Singh: $1.8 million, I wonder what is wrong. $1.8 million.
Should the man who takes $50 out of his pay packet of $1,000, leaving
$950 for him, his wife and his children, with no savings, should he not
know that some of that money is going or has gone into a $500,000 to
$600,000 pay package for you?
T.T. Durai: Surely he knows.
· Davinder Singh: Tell me, how does he know?
T.T. Durai: Let me explain. People donate money to the NKF to run a
dialysis programme that saves lives. We have built a dialysis programme.
Judge: Please answer the question.
· Davinder Singh: You said: 'Surely he knows.'
T.T. Durai: No, I am saying a person who contributes to the foundation
knows that there are people working in the institution.
Judge: No. The question is, should that person know that you are earning
$500,000, $600,000 a year? It is a simple question.
T.T. Durai: No, your honour, I do not see a need for him to know.
· Davinder Singh: Thank you. It has nothing to do with privacy. It is
about embarrassment, is it not?
T.T. Durai: No.
· Davinder Singh: You would lose all authority, all moral authority to
look at him in his eyes, isn't that right?
T.T. Durai: That is not true.
· Davinder Singh: If he knew that you were flying first class on his
money, you could not look him in his eyes, isn't that true?
T.T. Durai: It is not true.
· Davinder Singh: If he knew that his salary couldn't even buy the
bathroom fittings in your private office suite, you couldn't look him in
T.T. Durai: That is not true.
· Davinder Singh: We now understand why you say the $990 tap is not
expensive. Well, coming from you at $600,000 a year, we now know why you
say it is not expensive. But tell us, for that man with $1,000/$2,000,
is it expensive?
T.T. Durai: Yes, he may consider it expensive.
· Davinder Singh: He may, or is it? Tell us the truth.
T.T. Durai: I cannot speak for him. It depends on the type of building,
the use of the item.
· Davinder Singh: The man in his HDB one-room, two-room, three-room
flat, earning a salary of $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 – would he find that
tap at $990 plus 10 per cent discount expensive?
T.T. Durai: He may consider it expensive, yes.
· Davinder Singh: He may, or will he?
T.T. Durai: If he is an educated person, if he knows the use of the
particular office, for what purpose, he may probably think it is
Published July 13, 2005
NKF DEFAMATION SUIT
What they said
Email this article
On NKF's reserves
Mr Singh: On your own case, there is nothing defamatory because people will understand why you needed such extravagant fittings
Davinder Singh: Are you prepared to take out an advertisement in tomorrow's papers apologising to Singaporeans to say: 'We did not intend to deceive but, unfortunately, you have been deceived. The money is not going to last merely three years, it will last between 30 and 40 years.'? Are you prepared to do that?
TT Durai: No, I am not. I am not prepared to do that. I am just saying that we wanted to raise as much money for the patients' future. We wanted to keep a deposit . . .
Justice Tan Lee Meng: Mr Durai, it will help if you answer the question.
Singh: Why? Why are you not prepared to come clean? We already know that, to use your word, there was an 'inaccuracy'. Why are you not prepared to come clean? This is people's money, you know.
Durai: It is for the people.
Singh: These are people who earn so little, giving. Why are you not prepared to tell them the truth?
Durai: The money is for the people.
Singh: And your taps.
On NKF's misrepresentations
Singh: So . . . when reserves are put out at three years, which is a deflation of 90 per cent, when Business Class is represented as being the class that you travel, which is false, that is all not deliberate. They were all oversights, as was the failure to correct them. Is that your honest answer?
Durai: As I explained to the court, I did not do it with deliberate intentions.
Singh: All of that was done with an oversight. Why is it that all these mistakes are not on the other side of the line? For example, patient numbers are never under-represented, reserve available years are never over-represented? Why? Why is it that they fall always on the other side of the line when it becomes false and people act on it? If it is only an oversight, how is it that time and time and time again, the mistake falls on the other side of the line, which is beneficial to you, but against the interests of the donors?
On that 'expensive tap'
Singh: Give us a number, please. I asked you whether $2,000 was okay, you said 'fine'. I asked you $5,000, you said 'no'. So where is the line? What about $1,000? Bear in mind (the average man) in his HDB flat, no savings, you go and ask him, will you pay $1,000 for this tap? Is $1,000 expensive from that perspective?
Durai: I do not think so. It depends on the context in which the building . . . for the purposes of the building. I do not think so.
Singh: $1,000 is not expensive?
Durai: Yes, I would think so. It is quite reasonable.
Singh: So the line would be $1,500, where you will cross between not expensive and expensive in his mind?
Durai: Yes, I would think . . . in the context of the purpose for which it is being used, that is how my judgment will be.
Singh: You have just told us that if it is a $21 million building (NKF's headquarters), international organisation, people will understand why you need to have expensive installations.
Durai: No, it is not expensive.
Singh: Now – wait a minute. Now you say the article is about how these taps are expensive.
Durai: No, the article . . .
Singh: On your own case, Mr Durai, there is nothing defamatory (about the ST article) because people will understand why you needed to have such extravagant fittings.
On bathroom use
Singh: Why if, as you claim, the bathroom was for anyone to use, did you choose to have the entrance through your office?
Durai: I can only say it was a design put up and it was what it was and it was functionally used in that manner. It was not something which I deliberately did to prevent people from coming in.
Singh: In fact, in the bathroom, there was a shower, right?
Durai: That is one corner of it, yes.
Singh: So anybody can come in and bathe? (to loud sniggers from the public gallery)
Durai: Yes, my other senior colleagues were using it to bathe.
Singh: You see, Mr Durai, forgive me if I am wrong, because I have not had the benefit of such a luxury. People do that because they want it to be private, for their private use . . . The article says there was a glass-panelled shower. Is that true?
Durai: It was just a glass cover on a wall.
Durai: It was one corner of the place with a glass door.
Singh: Right. So it is a glass-panelled shower. In other words, God forbid, anybody wants to see you bathing, they could see right through, right?
Singh: Is that consistent with it being a toilet or bathroom for general usage?
With Best Regards,
Secretary to CFO
Accord Customer Care Solutions Limited
DID: +65 6410 2638
Fax: +65 6410 2669