Thu, Aug 25, 2005 - Page 3 News List

DPP calls for probe of delays in tsunami payouts

NO RELIEF The party and some of its pan-blue rivals want to know why NT$400 million donated by the public for tsunami victims has not yet been distributed to charities

BY KO SHU-LING AND JIMMY CHUANG  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Former Government Information Office (GIO) head Lin Chia-lung, left, and current Minister of the GIO Pasuya Yao both smile after a meeting yesterday to clarify their reports concerning funds collected for tsunami relief on Lin's initiative when he was still in charge if the GIO.

PHOTO: CHIEN JUNG-FONG, TAIPEI TIMES

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus yesterday called on government agencies to stop infighting and investigate delays in handing out NT$400 million (US$12.4 million) in relief funds raised to help Asian countries devastated by deadly tidal waves in December.

"We understand the main reason for the delay is that it has taken some time for the government to process tax exemption receipts for donors," DPP caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) said. "However, we'd like to see the Government Information Office [GIO], the Ministry of Finance and the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting, and Statistics offer an explanation to the public regarding whether there is any other factor contributing to such a long delay."

Lai also called for an end to squabbles between former GIO head Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) and current Minister of the GIO Pasuya Yao (姚文智).

Echoing Lai's requests, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said that it does not make sense to stall the allocation of the funds for eight months.

"The government must make an effort to solve the problem because it has seriously sabotaged the nation's credibility and image," he said.

While Lin blamed the legislature for failing to amend certain regulations to make it easier to allocate the funds, Wang said the government should have studied the law more carefully in the first place and let private charity groups take care of the matter.

"It only shows that the government fails to understand the situation it is in," he said. "It is now too late to find excuses for the mess they have made."

Criticizing the government-initiated fundraising scheme as "crudely planned," People First Party (PFP) caucus whip Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) called on Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) to mete out punishment to the government officials responsible for the delay.

If Hsieh fails to do so, Sun said his caucus will team up with other opposition parties to establish an investigation task force during the next legislative session to find out the truth.

PFP lawmaker Wu Ching-chih (吳清池) said the government should have let the Ministry of Foreign Affairs take care of the matter in the first place.

Meanwhile, Yao and Lin appeared together yesterday and promised that the NT$400 million in donations will be distributed to local charities before Sept. 5.

The idea to raise NT$400 million for tsunami relief originated with Lin, when he was minister of the GIO.

The plan involved seeking donations from the public and distributing them to victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia. The charities were to pay tsunami victims from their own money first, and be reimbursed by the public's donations.

However, since the money is still in GIO's bank account, the agency has come under criticism. Some local media even reported that, "Yao has been cleaning up for Lin, who started the project and then left to campaign to work on his campaign for Taichung City."

Yao, however, denied any ill feeling yesterday.

"There is no argument between us," Yao said.

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