Tue, Aug 23, 2005 - Page 2 News List

GIO's tsunami relief criticized

AID DELAY Even though the money raised by other government-sponsored programs has been distributed, the funds solicited by the GIO are still sitting in the central bank

BY KO SHU-LING  /  STAFF REPORTER

More than six months after people in Taiwan raised almost NT$400 million (US$12.4 million) to help children in tsunami-ravaged Asian countries, the money has not been distributed -- prompting criticism of the Government Information Office (GIO), the fund's sponsor.

In response, GIO officials said yesterday that the money would be allocated by the end of this month at the earliest.

"Because of necessary administrative procedures, we expect to allocate the money by the end of this month or the beginning of next month," Minister of the GIO Pasuya Yao (姚文智) said.

The GIO launched a fundraising campaign to help children in countries devastated by the tidal waves caused by the massive earthquake that struck off the coast of Indonesia on Dec. 26 last year.

The campaign raised NT$395 million.

The money, however, is still in the central bank, forcing the charities commissioned by the GIO to implement the aid program to dip into their own funds to cover the expenses.

Responding to media inquiries and concern from the charity groups, Yao dismissed the accusation that government laziness or inefficiency led to the delay in payment.

Yao said that while most government-sponsored tsunami-relief efforts have been carried out as planned, the fund allocation for the GIO program required more time because the agency has to ensure that every dollar is spent wisely and under proper supervision.

Former GIO head Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), who initiated the program, said that he is confident that Yao can handle the matter and will allocate the money as soon as the funds clear the bureaucratic red-tape.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus, however, is less sanguine.

KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) said she thought the GIO should offer a public apology for the delay and shoulder the responsibility for sabotaging the nation's image and the government's credibility.

She also cast doubts on Lin's sincerity in launching the program, describing his actions as a "performance" if it turned out he had failed to properly hand the matter over to his successor.

"Lin has said that he would be responsible even if he left the GIO post," she said. "If he fails to keep his promise, he does not deserve to run in the year-end mayoral election in Taichung City."

Hung said she also wanted to know when the trust fund to handle the money raised for the program would be established.

In response, Jason Ho (何吉森), senior executive officer of the GIO's Department of Broadcasting Affairs, said that the agency has signed a contract with the Hua Nan Commercial Bank and hopes to deposit the money in a trust fund account in that bank by the end of this month.

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