New questions after transparency drive

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2011, 12:00am

The Red Cross Society of China's move to improve transparency and the image of the charitable organisation by publishing information on donations and expenditure online raised more questions yesterday - just one day after its launch.

Information on the source and the use of donations collected after the earthquake in Yushu, Qinghai, in April last year, was made available on Sunday, amid public fury over a series of scandals, including one involving an expensive lunch paid for by the organisation, and another over an employee's personal spending.

Additionally, a woman who falsely claimed to be working for the organisation posted online pictures showing off luxury cars and handbags, sparking a public outcry before the woman admitted to lying.

The system allows individuals who donated more than 100,000 yuan (HK$120,000) and organisations that gave more than 500,000 yuan to find out exactly which projects their money helped. But information on the progress of those projects was not included.

Internet users who made use of the system discovered that some of the money recorded as being donated for reconstruction had apparently been given before the earthquake took place. The data also revealed that the society earmarked 5.83 million yuan for 'project supervision' after the quake.

Internet users asked why the organisation needed to spend so much to oversee projects in a county of just 300,000 residents.

Wang Rupeng , secretary general of the Red Cross Society of China, told China Youth Daily that the funds were earmarked for administrative oversight in accordance with official guidelines, but not all of it had been spent.

'The expenditure has not been made,' Wang said. 'When the [inspection of the reconstruction] is complete, the figure will be announced to the public and subject to public scrutiny.'

Many internet users also questioned the credibility of the system, after using it to search for the names of some well-known donors.

A search for 'One Foundation', for example, leads to 13 results, listing donations from 100 yuan to 15,000 yuan, but the foundation said it had given two million yuan in funds and goods by April 21 last year. And a search for the name of foundation founder, actor Jet Li, generated three entries and donations of 930 yuan.

However, after checking with the organisation's finance department, Wang apologised and said those three donations were made not by Li, but by anonymous donors in the name of One Foundation.

Wang said donations made after January 11 of last year were included, and not all were necessarily linked to the Yushu earthquake.

'There must be lots of questions during the test run,' the Red Cross Society of China said on its microblog. 'We sincerely hope the public will give us its opinions, and we will improve based on that.'