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Red Cross branch blamed for moldy cash

Updated: 2013-01-05 00:46
By SHAN JUAN ( China Daily)

The Chengdu branch of the Red Cross Society of China should be accountable for a widely reported scandal that cash in donation boxes in the city for disaster relief were left uncollected for four years, an independent investigation has found.

The public supervision committee over the biggest humanitarian organization in China launched the investigation at the end of December in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, and released preliminary results on Friday.

"The Chengdu Red Cross branch is responsible for the mismanagement and poor maintenance of donation boxes, causing the money inside the boxes to become moldy," said Huang Weimin, an attorney with Grandall Law Firm in Beijing, and also secretary-general of the committee.

"There must be someone held accountable for that which has seriously hurt donors' kindness and the reputation of the Red Cross," he noted, citing comments from the Red Cross Society's leaders.

Under a partnership between the Chengdu Red Cross branch and a local advertising company, 1,000 donation boxes were installed citywide in 2008 to help with disaster relief after a major earthquake hit the province in May, according to the investigation.

A leadership reshuffle at the Chengdu Red Cross branch led to a misunderstanding in the partnership, and the boxes were left untended and the money inside uncollected until June 2012, it showed.

About 6,116 yuan ($980) in donations has been collected, Beijing News reported on Dec 26.

However, "so far no corruption has been detected in the case", said Wang Yong, a spokesman for the public supervision committee.

The investigation revealed that the local Red Cross showed a poor sense of responsibility and limited capacity to run cooperation projects with commercial partners, he added.

"Given they are just preliminary results, we are still open to public ideas and supervision concerning the investigation," he said.

According to Wang, the committee independently conducted the investigation, but the cost incurred, such as committee members' airfare to Chengdu and local accommodations, would be shouldered by the Red Cross.

"That's also in line with international practice," he said, stressing that they were independent volunteers rather than paid staff of the Red Cross.

"Total costs and further findings of the investigation will be made public when available," he said.

Huang Weimin said the committee is also under public supervision.

He urged the Red Cross to carefully scrutinize the quality of commercial partners, enhance capacity in project operations and better manage the installation and maintenance of donation boxes.

In response, the Red Cross Society has ordered a nationwide rectification campaign on donation boxes installed on the mainland.

A regulation on the campaign will be issued soon by the society, Huang said.

"We welcome the positive and quick response by the society," he said.