City Harvest members were never told by Foong Daw Ching the difference between the roles of an engagement partner, consultant partner, managing partner and lead partner.
Foong Daw Ching was already a managing partner of an established audit firm when he first met his clients-to-be from City Harvest Church, sometime in 1993. He was also one of the first elders they looked up to, as he enjoyed good standing as a leader in the local Christian community. As was the case with many other churches, the young leaders of CHC—Tan Ye Peng was only 21—sought Foong’s advice on matters pertaining to governance and auditing of their church.
It was a relationship that, over nearly two decades, grew both personally and professionally, as pointed out by senior counsel N. Sreenivasan in his cross-examination of Foong this afternoon.
How then, Sreenivasan asked, were they to know that they should not have relied on his advice and should instead have approached CHC’s engagement partner when they came to him for answers? As Foong himself admitted, he could not recall ever explaining the difference between the roles of an engagement partner, consultant partner, managing partner and lead partner to his CHC clients.
It was against this background that Sreenivasan challenged the evidence Foong had given over the past four days on the stand. Sreenivasan echoed defense lawyer for Kong Hee, Edwin Tong, when he suggested Foong tried to distance himself from the advice given to CHC, on account that he was not CHC’s direct audit partner and manager at the material time.
When Sreenivasan questioned if Foong had ever directed his CHC clients to the respective audit partner or manager instead of coming to him, Foong could only point to one instance where he forwarded a query to the audit partner who subsequently dealt with it. As to whether he had informed the accused about the forwarding of the query, he admitted that he did not.
Yesterday, Tong showed email evidence which showed how Foong had positioned himself to the CHC team as the go-to person for audit matters.
Sreenivasan also took Foong to task over his numerous claims of being unable to recall having read or seen pertinent documents and emails sent directly to him. Asked if it was his responsibility to read up on documents that his client Tan Ye Peng had sent by email, Foong replied that he would ask somebody else to read it before he himself gave Tan an answer.
When Sreenivasan questioned Foong about his giving a statement to the Commercial Affairs Department, Foong first replied he didn’t remember. When pressed to recall if such an interview happened this past month, Foong still demurred. Finally, Foong admitted there had been two CAD interviews with him, one which occurred last week and the other, after the case broke in June 2012.
The day ended with Sreenivasan asking for diary records from Foong’s phone, dated 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010) for tomorrow’s cross examination.
Court resumes 9:30 am tomorrow
Sreeni Gets Stern
The senior counsel tried to extract straight answers from Foong Daw Ching today.
“Sorry, Mr Foong, I don’t want to be rude. ‘I think there must be some discussion’ is a vague, ambiguous answer. And when it comes from an ignorant uneducated person, we may say they don’t understand what’s going on. When it comes from a senior partner of the number eight accountancy firm in Singapore, I will be submitting to his Honour that you are being dishonest. I don’t like to do that. So I’m going to give you a chance again, and again and again.”
“Mr Foong, I would like you to be a bit cooperative, and try, because ‘can’t remember’ is a very pat, simple answer. But you did take your oath to try and tell the truth.”
“Mr Foong, I’m going to tell you very clearly, don’t just come up with ‘I don’t remember’ as a convenient answer. Because if it’s going to take me five, 10 minutes to get a straight answer from you on simple points, we really will be here for a long time. So, please, think very carefully. Understand? Take your time to think before you answer.”
“No, Mr Foong, I’m asking a name. When I use the word ‘who’, you give me a name. When I use the word “where”, you give me a place. When I use the word ‘when’, you give me a time.
“No, your Honour, I want a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and then he can explain. Because I’ve seen what has been going on for the last five days. The witness doesn’t answer a straight question.”