Red Cross working for transparency

BEIJING – The head of the Red Cross Society of China pledged again to disclose more information on how much the charity receives through donations and how much money it spends, while expressing regret over the public’s intense criticism of the charity’s lack of transparency.

Speaking to China Central Television on Monday, Wang Rupeng, secretary-general of the charity, said the Red Cross needs more time to reach its goal of providing a public account of every donation it receives.

His statement came after many people complained that information the organization had put on the Internet in a July 31 test release had lacked detail.

The data then published were meant to show how the charity had spent the money it had collected to help victims of the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that had hit Yushu county in Northwest China’s Qinghai province on April 14 this past year.

The first batch of information revealed how the charity used funds involving 100,000 yuan ($15,530) or more from individual donors and 500,000 yuan or more from corporate donors for the Yushu earthquake.

The disaster claimed almost 2,700 lives and left more than 100,000 people homeless.

After the spending information was released, some observers began to raise questions about it. One item that caught their eye was an expenditure of roughly 160,000 yuan to rebuild a house. Also odd, some thought, was the fact that 5 million yuan in donated money had not been spent yet.

In the CCTV interview, Wang said housing projects in Yushu are more costly because all of the construction materials used in them must be shipped from outside the provincial capital, Xining, which is more than 800 kilometers away from the affected areas.

He said the unspent 5 million yuan has been set aside to pay for future auditing, inspection and supervision work. Reports about the use of that money will be made public.

The Red Cross will meanwhile continue for an indefinite period of time to publish test releases of spending information online.

All the while, its goal will be to move toward being more transparent and providing more detail about small donations.

Liu Youping, deputy director of the China Charity and Donation Information Center, said the Red Cross should ideally show how every single donation, no matter how small, has been spent.

Hu Xingdou, an economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said charities have a duty to disclose the details of their finances. The data that have been made public so far do not meet that obligation, he said.

Fan Yaneng, an employee at a passenger bus manufacturer in Suzhou, East China’s Jiangsu province, said he has never given money to the Red Cross and has little faith the charity will reach its goal of becoming more open to public scrutiny.

Rather than the Red Cross, he feels more comfortable supporting charity events organized for two primary schools in Guizhou province and Tibet, he said. Fan said information about the expenditures and recipients of that money is easily accessible.

China Daily

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