Reins tighten after donations drop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 August, 2011, 12:00am


The central government plans to bolster oversight of charitable groups on the mainland after donations to the scandal-ridden sector plunged by more than 80 per cent in the past two months.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs said it would designate its China Charity and Donation Information Centre to supervise charitable groups. Charities and various social welfare bodies were formerly under the oversight of the ministry's social organisation department, the Beijing News reported yesterday.

However, the Red Cross Society of China, recently mired in controversy, was not included in the supervision list of the ministry's charity oversight department.

The slump in donations was caused by a series of scandals involving the alleged misuse of funds by charitable groups - including the Red Cross Society of China and the China Charity Federation, two of the mainland's biggest non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

In its report, the ministry did not detail how many charitable groups would come under the supervision of its charity oversight department. However, it said that organisations involved in social welfare, social services and charity would be included. The ministry said it would order these groups to declare details of their organisational rules, the aims of their activities to raise funds, and their financial situations.

Despite the exemption of the Red Cross Society of China, its president Hua Jianmin - who is also a deputy chairman of the National People's Congress' Standing Committee - said the public would welcome government oversight. Hua promised to implement changes inside the organisation to overcome any problems.

Wang Zhenyao, director of the Centre for Philanthropy Research at Beijing Normal University, said the Red Cross Society of China and other NGOs had a long way to go in improving operational transparency and embracing the government's supervision.

Wang said Beijing should be blamed for the lack of accountability in charitable groups. 'The lack of transparency with charity organisations is a result of the way the government manages them,' Wang said.

'We have a lot of guidelines and rules, but they are all just slogans, not practical and detailed actions, because our government is just concerned with slogans.

'Today, the top priority of the mainland's charitable groups and foundations should be to overhaul their poor accountability systems and set up a practical and specialised administration. Respect for donors and their rights to track all donations should be the core mission.'

Professor Wang Ming, from Tsinghua University's Non-governmental Organisation Research Centre, suggested the ministry focus on monitoring a small, select group of NGOs. 'As there are more than 446,000 NGOs on the mainland doing charity work, it's impossible for our government to watch all of them. I think our government just needs to monitor those organisations that have the largest donations and expenditures,' he said.

'I also suggest that our government learn from the British, Hong Kong and Singaporean authorities and invite other associated agencies or the public to participate in the checks.'

Wang Ming urged the ministry to detail how it would supervise the charitable groups and seek feedback from the public.

On Friday, ministry officials called on the media to stop pursuing scandals involving charitable groups, the Beijing Times reported.