Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Charities hope to cash vouchers

‘HALF EFFORT’The government’s position that non-governmental organizations could use vouchers to purchase supplies worked for some charities, but not for others

By Loa Iok-sin and Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The government’s call for people to donate consumer vouchers to organizations is just a “half effort,” representatives of social groups said yesterday, complaining that vouchers received by charities can not be cashed at banks.

“Both President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) publicly encouraged people to consider donating their consumer vouchers, but ironically, by regulation, only enterprises with business registrations can cash consumer coupons, and most non-profit organizations do not have such registrations,” said Alliance of Welfare Organizations secretary-general Chang Hung-lin (張宏林) as he stood outside a Bank of Taiwan branch after the bank rejected his request to cash donated vouchers.

The alliance called on the government to remove the rule, saying that it violates the Special Act for Distributing Consumer Vouchers to Boost the Economy (振興經濟消費券發放特別條例).

“The special act encourages people to donate their vouchers to non-governmental organizations [NGO]. However, rules set forth by the Ministry of Finance said that only registered businesses may cash or deposit vouchers at banks,” Chang said. “If donating vouchers to registered NGOs is allowed, why aren’t we allowed to cash the vouchers ourselves?”

Chang said that among the 86 social organizations under the alliance — spanning from environmental, social welfare, youth, to health groups — most have reported not being able to deposit donated vouchers they have received.

The consumer voucher policy in this regard is “crude,” Chang said.

“We have called the consumer voucher’s hotline for a solution, but have been told to go and spend these vouchers — but the funds that the groups have received range from several thousand NT dollars to several million; the inability of the groups to exchange the vouchers for monetary funds has posed a problem for them,” he said.

Green Party Taiwan secretary-general Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲), who accompanied Chang to the bank, agreed.

“On the one hand, government officials said they’d donate their vouchers to welfare groups, on the other, the groups cannot cash their vouchers,” Pan said.

“The government apparently only has a half intention to help NGOs ... [For example], does the government expect us to pay rent, or pay our workers with the vouchers?” he said.

Not all welfare groups encounter the problem, though.

Garden of Hope Foundation executive director Chi Hui-jung (紀惠容) said that while her organizations takes care of tens of thousands of abuse victims, “we spend the vouchers to buy things for victims in our care faster than we get voucher donations.”

Jacob Jou (周逸衡), chairman of the Teacher Chang Foundation, a group that offers counseling service for people with depression and who are considering suicide, said that they haven’t had problems either.

However, both Chi and Jou said that they support revising the rule to allow NGOs to cash or deposit consumer vouchers.

An unnamed ministry official was quoted by the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) yesterday as saying that it would be meaningless to allow NGOs to cash vouchers.

“Many NGOs suffer from financial shortages, so they should be able to spend their vouchers not long after they receive them,” the official was quoted as saying. “Besides, the amount of a donation in vouchers would only be a small part of all donations.”

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