Thu, Feb 15, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Charity should not handle donations

It has been a bad week for charities, with the Oxfam scandal in the UK exploding trust in charities and leading to a drop in public donations.

However, the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China — itself no stranger to controversy — is a cause of concern for members of the public who are wondering where their donations to the Hualien earthquake disaster relief effort are going.

Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi said that donations for the relief effort are to be handed to the local chapter of the society, which will then allocate the funds.

This in itself is not problematic, should the collection of donations from the public be distributed and allocated transparently and efficiently. That the charity is governed by its own special law suggests that it should be subject to rigorous supervision.

The society was accorded special privileges by the Red Cross Society Act of the Republic of China (中華民國紅十字會法) to raise funds for disaster relief. One of these privileges is the right to call for emergency donations without seeking prior government approval.

It should be noted that Fu is also the director of the society’s Hualien chapter. Not surprisingly, his announcement was met with concern about the potential for corruption and elected officials lining their pockets with money meant to help disaster victims.

Perhaps we should give Fu the benefit of the doubt. As county commissioner, he is a public servant who also lends his time to the Red Cross, nor has he had an easy time recently.

In October last year, he was indicted on charges of tax evasion and perjury and narrowly avoided corruption charges, which were dropped due to insufficient evidence.

Four months earlier, the Taiwan High Court had upheld his guilty verdict on charges of insider trading dating from 2003. Let us not forget that in 2010, he was indicted on charges resulting from suspicions of a fake divorce from his then wife, Hsu Chen-wei (徐榛蔚), who is now a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator.

The divorce, finalized just before Fu took office as Hualien County commissioner in 2009, cleared the way for him to appoint Hsu as his deputy.

He was not given the benefit of the doubt on that occasion. Perhaps he should not be given it now.

The Red Cross Society, which is no longer an official member of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescenct Societies, has long been criticized for lacking transparency in how it allocates funds, as well as for the high salaries paid to its senior management.

Senior KMT figure and former minister of justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) is the current president of the society and is also to convene the commission supervising the allocation of the quake relief funds, which has also attracted criticism that the commission is to be both player and referee.

Even if there were nothing untoward in the process, Fu’s track record, the lack of accountability in the organization and concerns over a lack of rigorous supervision certainly give cause for concern.

Relief funds for victims of last week’s earthquake would be better handled by an organization with more credibility. Otherwise, the public might be deterred from donating in the future.

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