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UPDATED: June 7, 2008 NO. 23 JUN.5, 2008
Follow the Money
Earthquake relief donations to be carefully audited to ensure transparent distribution of funds

Funds to help the Sichuan earthquake victims are pouring in from all corners of the world, and as this figure grows into billions of dollars, much public concern is being raised about the transparent use of donations.

As of May 27, China had received cash donations and relief supplies worth 32.72 billion yuan ($4.7 billion), according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Of this, 9.37 billion yuan ($1.35 billion) had been transferred to the special funds used for after-disaster rescue and relief work. The donations, which represent a huge reserve of love and sympathy, will help heal the wounds and rebuild the confidence of those left behind in the quake-hit zone.

The authorities are also increasingly aware of fund safety by expanding transparency and avoiding the possibility of corruption. The National Audit Office, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Civil Affairs are required to jointly track the use of donated funds and publicize the accounts once a month, said the State Council, China's cabinet, on its website. At the same time, the Red Cross Society of China and China Charity Federation, the two biggest donation receivers, assured every donor that the resources will be strictly managed and used in a proper and timely manner by opening accounts and receiving complaints.

"The Ministry of Finance will take over the funds, and independent accountants from Zhongwei Auditing firm, designated by the ministry, will check all transactions through the process," said Jiang Yiman, Executive Deputy Director of the Red Cross Society of China, when answering questions from netizens on people.com.cn, a leading news portal, on May 24. "Every penny will have to be deposited at the central bank, and even derivative interest will be included in relief funds," she added.

Jiang also pledged timely delivery of donations to needy people and said the use of funds would be adjusted depending on suggestions from the public, the Ministry of Finance and the National Audit Office.

According to Secretary General Wang Haijing of the Red Cross Society of China, most of the quake donations received by his society will be used for the procurement of emergency relief supplies and the rest will be used for recovery of affected areas.

"We need more hands in the heavily stricken counties," Wang Zhongxin, Director of the Social Security Audit Department at the National Audit Office, told China Central Television on May 24. He assured the public that a number of auditors were ready to start auditing and would make monthly reports from June 20.

Sichuan Provincial Quake Rescue and Relief Headquarters announced on May 26 that it would recruit a group of volunteers to help supervise the use of donations. Also, it is planning to establish a long-term mechanism for more efficient supervision, such as introducing a system in which proposals on how to allocate and distribute relief funds can be submitted and different opinions heard.

In fact, there are various mechanisms put in place before the Sichuan Provincial Quake Rescue and Relief Headquarters' initiative to make the process more transparent, including publishing income and expenditure accounts, surveillance from higher-level government agencies and media supervision. All involved are in agreement that the participation of professional and volunteer auditors and accountants will definitely improve the efficiency of fund use and governance integrity.

President of the Supreme People's Court Wang Shengjun also warned that courts at all levels will impose severer punishment against corruption and embezzlement related to quake relief funds. It's reported that local courts in the quake-hit zone have been required to intensify investigation of quake-related crimes in an efficient manner.

In spite of generous donations from both local and international donors, the disaster is so great that victims are still short of emergency aid. As aftershocks continue to strike, tents or makeshift houses are desperately needed to shelter millions of homeless. More temporary schools are in need to shelter students for an early resumption of classes, while more counseling and volunteers are needed to help traumatized children in earthquake-shattered rural areas.

When asked whether the funds will reach quake victims in an open and efficient way, Director Wang from the National Audit Office said, "Please trust us. It is our due responsibility to make the relief distribution process clear and watch over the money for our people."

How to Donate

Ministry of Civil Affairs

Account number (renminbi): 11001007400058224610

Bank: Beijing Dongsi branch of China Construction Bank

Account number (foreign currency): 00100252328091014

Bank: Bank of China

Hotline: (8610) 58123111, 58123222, 58123611, 58123617, 58123612

Red Cross Society of China

Account number (renminbi): 0200001009014413252

Bank: Beijing branch of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China

Account number (foreign currency): 7112111482600000209

Bank: Beijing Jiuxianqiao branch of CITIC Bank.

Hotline: (8610) 65139999, 64027620

Website: www.redcross.org.cn

China Charity Federation

Account number (renminbi): 0200002809014450409

Bank: Beijing Xisi branch of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China

Account number (foreign currency): 00100914908091014

Bank: Bank of China

Hotline: (8610) 66083191, 66083260, 66055848

Website: www.usnow.org, www.chinacharity.cn


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