Tue, Mar 17, 2015 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTERS ]

Charities need transparency

I have, for some time now, been watching and listening to the goings on of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation both in the US and in Taiwan. And now I have to admit that I am either confused, or ignorant, or both.

The good works of this massive organization are well known throughout the world. Here in the US, it is building Tzu Chi schools and facilities that enable seniors to meet and socialize; places of instruction in the tenets of Master Cheng Yen (證嚴法師). And yes, my wife and I donate annually.

However, where is my money going? I have asked and got no real answer. On one occasion, I asked for some sort of annual financial statement for the organization and was met with: “How can you be so bold as to question the merits of this wonderful group?”

On a trip back to Taiwan two years ago, we were walking through an area in Taichung and found another of Tzu Chi’s typically overly large gray buildings going up. When we asked what it was to be used for, no one could tell us. We asked one of the local Tzu Chi commissioners and she could not tell us either.

That evening over dinner with friends, the conversation came to the construction we had seen that day. No one at the table could understand the need for another large blocky gray building, and some went so far as to call this incessant building nothing more than “monuments to someone’s vanity.” And no one could understand why there is virtually no public accounting for any of the money that is donated.

And by accounting I mean a real accounting of what was donated, what was spent, where it was spent, how much was donated as cash to disaster victims, how much is spent in salaries, how much for travel, who sits on the board of directors and how much compensation do they receive?

To my thinking, this is called “non-profit/charity transparency.” If Tzu Chi expects to survive in this current climate, it is going to need to become much more transparent instead of falling back on the old “how can you question such a wonderful organization?”

Believe me, it happens. Here in the US, we have seen several supposedly “wonderful” charitable organizations taken down by rot from the inside. It hurts no one to provide an annual statement of accounts to the public. It also goes a long way to reassure all the donors.

Tom Kuleck

Taichung

Taiwan needs nuclear option

Abandoning nuclear power, as the demonstrators have been calling for, would be a long-term disaster for Taiwan. Nuclear power is still the cheapest way of producing energy. Modern power plants are quite safe, unlike the plants of the past.

Further, Taiwan might need to acquire a nuclear deterrent if the US continues to backtrack on its commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act.

The US, under the current administration, is not as reliable an ally of Taiwan as it once was. There can be no substitute for self-reliance in defense.

Gavan Duffy

Australia

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