A vandalised donation box in one of the mosques in Brunei Darussalam. Picture source.

The increasing number of break-ins across Brunei necessitates the government to take a proactive approach to protecting its properties, especially places of worships across the nation.

Phasing out the physical donation boxes and replacing donation with online payment transfers are part of the solution to safeguard the mosques and public money from harm’s way. 

Putting on locks and chains to protect these boxes would no longer be sufficient as criminals these days are becoming ever more brazen in their break-ins (see the picture above).

As far back as 2014, three persons were apprehended and found guilty for stealing money from 28 mosques in the country. How many boxes were damaged as a consequence of their irresponsible actions were not shared, but theft and the damage would have cost the government money.

Moreover, by opting for digital payments, it can reduce the chances of unscrupulous people pocketing money from the physical donation boxes. 

Recently, the news featured an official allegedly pocketing BND60 from the mosque’s donation box.

With all payments digitised and centrally channelled directly to the relevant ministry, pocketing public money would greatly be minimised as all transitions can be accounted for.

Finally, with the pandemic currently ongoing, it would be best to digitise online donations as physical donation boxes could possibly be contaminated and hence increase unnecessary risk of virus transfer to our people, especially the elderlies.

Once the mosques are opened, the government should begin by installing boards across the mosques to encourage people to donate online whilst at the same time reducing the donation boxes to one or two for a limited time, say for one month.

One or two donation boxes for every mosque would still be needed to fully adjust the people to the digital payments, and once the period is up, then those donation boxes need to be removed. All payments must then be made digitally 100%.

With 118 places of worship, including 102 mosques, 5 suraus, and 11 balai ibadat (worship halls) in Brunei, the digital payment system should be a straightforward to carry out.

To conclude, online payments would go a long way to reduce break-ins, fraud, as well as to enhance accounting practises and protect the elderlies from harms way, provided the process is implemented properly.