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Donation Transparency Vowed

The Civil Affairs Ministry and the Chinese Red Cross on Friday promised transparency in the use of the billions of earthquake donations.

"We'll release the audit report every month," Jiang Yiman, vice-president of the China Red Cross Society, told a State Council Information Office news briefing on Friday.

"All money will be used for disaster relief, rescue and rebuilding efforts. No one should embezzle a penny."

Auditors have also started monitoring civil affairs departments at all levels to sniff out any attempts to hide, intercept or misappropriate donations, deputy director of the ministry's disaster relief department Pang Chenmin said.

"Any violator will be disciplined or receive criminal punishment," he said.

Some photos posted online showing disaster relief tents pitched in luxurious residential communities in Chengdu stirred public concern about whether all donations would be delivered to quake victims.

The country's top anti-graft body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China, has asked its subordinate bodies to severely deal with any corruption or malfeasance.

On Thursday, the CCDI and the Ministry of Supervision jointly issued a statute stipulating institutions and individuals - especially leading officials - found guilty of such activities will be severely punished.

In addition, the National Audit Office (NAO) and local audit authorities have dispatched more than 300 professionals for onsite supervision of relief resources. A coordinating team directed by NAO chief Liu Jiayi had been created to guide auditing work, Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday.

The Red Cross Society of China on Friday also reminded the public it has never authorized others to raise funds for it. It said Shanghai police had clamped down on an online fundraising scam that used the Chinese Red Cross' name. Eight suspects were arrested.

Also, a storeowner in Chengdu who slapped Red Cross logos on his commodities to get free transportation had also been handed over to judicial organs, the Red Cross said.

Jiang said the Red Cross never charges any management fees for earthquake contributions. According to international practice, the organization uses a set proportion of donations, usually 6.5 percent, to fund daily operations.

"But the Chinese Red Cross never takes anything from disaster relief donations, no matter if we're talking about the 2003 SARS epidemic or this year's earthquake," she said.

The Civil Affairs Ministry also said at Friday's briefing it might release the names of companies that pledged donations but failed to live up to their word.

"The aid should be given to victims as promised in a timely manner. If it never arrives, recipients have the right to pursue the payments and inform the public through appropriate channels."

He also said all the names of institutional and individual donors will be made public on the ministry's official website.

(China Daily May 31, 2008)

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