It has been almost three years since Typhoon Morakot devastated southern Taiwan, but a recent report by the National Audit Office showed that of the NT$14.5 billion (US$483.3 million) donated for disaster relief, NT$4.1 billion remained unused as of the end of April.
The National Audit Office made the discovery following a Legislative Yuan decision to follow up on post-Morakot reconstruction.
The report said more than a dozen groups had a total of NT$4.1 billion in donation money that was still unused. The five organizations with the most unused donations include the Tzu Chi Foundation (NT$1.7 billion), the Red Cross Society (NT$1.5 billion), the Chang Jung-fa Foundation (NT$300 million), the TVBS Foundation (NT$190 million) and the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (NT$120 million.)
The other 38 groups, including Formosa TV and the FTV Cultural Foundation, had used all their donations, totaling NT$759 million, the office said.
The Red Cross Society was accused of making inefficient use of donated money last year, when it was reported to have wired to Japan only about NT$400 million of the NT$1.8 billion it had collected for disaster relief.
At the time, the group said it would consider wiring the remaining money to the Red Cross Society of Japan, but Minister of the Interior Lee Hung-yuan (李鴻源) said in March this year that the group had collected NT$2.5 billion in donations for the earthquake in Japan and spent about NT$800 million, with the rest still unused. Lee said the group has some issues with its handling of donation money and said his ministry would consider measures to increase transparency.
Meanwhile, according to figures from the ministry, the Red Cross still has NT$100 million — or 14 percent — of the nearly NT$800 million donation it had collected for the Southeast Asian tsunami in 2004, and NT$600 million remaining from the NT$1.6 billion collected for the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, accounting for 37 percent of the donated money for the earthquake.
Unlike other groups, the Red Cross Society is under the jurisdiction of The Red Cross Society of the Republic of China Act (中華民國紅十字會法) — instead of the Charity Donations Act (公益勸募條例) — thus its lack of transparency in its collection and use of donations has long been criticized.
Lawmakers and the Ministry of the Interior have made proposals to revise — or abolish — the Red Cross law.
The ministry said it would continue to monitor use of donation money collected by non-governmental groups.
In response to the latest report by the National Audit Office, Red Cross Deputy Secretary-General Lin Hsiu-fen (林秀芬) said the group has managed to raise NT$5.1 billion in cash and goods for Morakot relief work, adding that as of the end of last month, it had already spent 76 percent — NT$3.9 billion — of the money raised.
It would also be doling out another NT$200 million in construction funds this month and would be using the rest of the NT$1 billion on funding four schools, permanent housing construction for the applicants of the 339 policy, as well for facility building over six years, she said.
Funding for hardware construction was mainly used for building temporary housing for 398 victims, 1,460 permanent housing units, a suspension bridge and four schools, Lin said, adding that the temporary housing units, bridge and 1,121 houses are already finished.