Report: Charity branch's accounting 'out of control'

Updated: 2011-09-02 08:16

By Xu Junqian (China Daily)

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SHANGHAI - Following a spate of scandals concerning charity organizations, the Wenzhou audit bureau has released a report describing the finance-management system of the local branch of the Red Cross Society of China as being "out of control".

The report notes that a cashier in the charity's Wenzhou branch embezzled 1.26 million yuan ($197,000) from 2005 to 2010.

The cashier, whose surname is Chen, is not a full-time employee of the Wenzhou branch of the Red Cross Society. Nor was she certified to be a cashier, said the report, which was released on Tuesday.

The branch was also supposed to have about 8.06-million-yuan worth of donated goods in storage, according to its records. Its warehouse is instead nearly empty and there are no documents showing where the goods have gone.

The report also faulted the branch for sharing an accountant with other government departments, mixing donated money with other funds, claiming expense reimbursements without producing receipts and mishandling the storage of donated goods.

Cai Zhangqing, vice-chairman of the Wenzhou Red Cross Society, responded to the accusations by saying that the troubles arose because the branch lacks an adequate number of staff members.

"We have six employees altogether, and every one of us is doing more than one job in the branch," Cai said on Thursday. "So we had no choice but to hire a temporary cashier because we needed a professional in that position. We had no idea she had no certification."

Cai said the Wenzhou Red Cross Society was founded in 2005 and is a fairly "young" organization. He conceded a number of faults do exist in its management system and said that he and others there are doing all they can to correct them.

The cashier was found to have used more than 1 million yuan of the money she had embezzled to open a store and to pay for family expenses. As a result, a Wenzhou court sentenced her this past month to six years and six months in prison. All of the stolen money has since been given back to the society with interest, making the total sum returned 1.37 million yuan.

According to Cai, the Wenzhou Red Cross Society has received about 30 million yuan in cash donations and 8 million yuan in goods donations since it was made independent from the local health department in 2005.

Meanwhile, little progress has been made in the attempts to account for where the 8 million yuan in donated goods have gone. Workers at the organization have only been able to find receipts showing to whom half of it was given.

An official from the Wenzhou audit bureau who declined to give his full name refused to comment further on the audit report or explain why the bureau had not managed to discover the accounting anomalies earlier.

The reputation of the Red Cross Society of China has been badly tainted since June, when Guo Meimei, a young woman, bragged about her extravagant life online while calling herself the "manager of the Red Cross Chamber of Commerce". Her claims prompted many in the public to wonder if the money they had given to the organization had been used to keep her in luxury.

In the months following the scandal, the amount of donations given to Chinese charity organizations has plunged by almost 90 percent.