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Red Cross promises transparency in donations

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-04-25 00:22

BEIJING - The Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) has promised to be transparent about donations raised for Lushan earthquake relief amid lingering trust crisis.

The RCSC started receiving donations for victims on Saturday after a strong quake hit Lushan county in Southwest China's Sichuan province, and as of 5 pm Tuesday, the donations amounted to 236 million yuan ($37.8 million), Wang Haijing, RCSC vice chairman, said in an interview with Xinhua.

Red Cross promises transparency in donationsWang acknowledged that the "Guo Meimei" incident had affected donations for Lushan, as the public were hesitant to donate quake-relief money via the RCSC.

In 2011, a young woman calling herself Guo Meimei used social media to say she was a manager in the organization and openly flaunted wealth and extravagance, which hit the RCSC's reputation hard.

The incident led to public anger as people speculated the organization had embezzled their money.

"But the major task currently is to carry out relief work well. The rescue task at the moment remains arduous, and we'd better concentrate on quake relief rather than devote ourselves to explaining or responding to various hearsays," said Wang.

Strengthened transparency

The RCSC has promised to treat every penny seriously and publicize details of the donations and their uses on its website, Wang said.

The society has allocated 55.68 million yuan of the donations to quake affected areas, including 15.94 million yuan in cash and 39.74 million yuan in goods such as coats, tents and drugs, said Wang.

It has also sent 113 rescue vehicles and 414 rescuers to the quake zone, the vice chairman said.

Apart from being supervised by the audit department and the RCSC's disciplinary division, the society will be monitored by social organizations, media and the RCSC social supervision committee, according to Wang.

The supervision committee was set up at the end of last year and has no affiliation with the charity. The committee members, which are all professionals in fields of law, finance, medicine, social management and rescue-and-relief -- work on a voluntary basis. They receive no pay or remuneration of any kind from the RCSC.

"We'll also recruit supervisors from the public and try to let everyone know how these donations are used," said Wang.

He said since the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, the society has begun publicizing donation information.

For example, if we received a donation from a person, the bank will provide us the name of the donator and the amount being given, and then we'll record the information in our system, explained Wang.

He said the RCSC will keep updating the detailed use of the money allocated for the quake zone, including the unit price and amount of relief supplies purchased using the funds, and the transportation cost.

But he said the RCSC has not yet been able to publicize the detailed use of every single person's donation. "We'll try to do it."

He also said, during an emergency, some expenses are hard to be calculated immediately. "Such as the 23 teams sent by the RCSC to the quake zone, their expenses will be worked out when they come back."

Image rebuilding

The public's reluctance to donate via the society underlines the organization's urgent need to rehabilitate its image.

"But the major task currently is to carry out relief work well. The rescue task at the moment remains arduous, and we'd better concentrate on quake relief rather than devote ourselves to explaining or responding to various hearsays," said Wang.

However, earlier Wednesday, the RCSC announced that it will reinvestigate the Guo Meimei case that has long shadowed the organization.

The announcement instantly attracted public attention.

The previous investigation, carried out by staff from the RCSC, the Ministry of Supervision, law firms and other agencies, asserted that neither Guo, nor her demonstrated wealth, had anything to do with the RCSC.

Wang Yong, the RCSC supervision committee spokesperson, said despite the work the society has done in quake relief, its efforts were not recognized by the public.

"Instead, many people still take the 'Guo Meimei' case as proof of the RCSC's corruption and embezzlement of public funds, which hampers the organization's future work in disaster relief and aid, " Wang Yong said.

He said the second probe will be conducted by third-party agencies and will not involve any staff of the RCSC.

According to Wang Jingming, the society has received nearly 50complaints concerning donations for Lushan quake victims, but none of them were incurred by "errors of principle" such as corruption or embezzlement.

Facing questioning and criticism, the RCSC has no other ways but by improving transparency to rebuild its image, he said.

"To put the RCSC's work into a glass box and let the public see each and every move we make," Wang said.

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