Charity transparency criticised

08:35, February 21, 2011      

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Charity in China is still receiving harsh criticism from the general public because of the slow progress being made in making it more transparent despite the fact that people's enthusiasm for philanthropy has risen ever since the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

A report unveiled by a subdivision of the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MOCA) showed that about 75 percent of charitable organizations in China have either no or limited disclosure of information, the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper reported.

National charity donations totaled more than 54 billion yuan ($8.2 billion) with the number of charitable organizations increasing to 435,000, but its level of transparency failed to improve, according to statistics released by an official authority in October.

"Although we expanded the sample this time, the findings are not grounds for optimism," Liu Youping, vice-director of China Charity and Donation Information Center (CCDIC), which is responsible for the survey, was quoted as saying.

The survey involved filling in a questionnaire and independent investigation, according to the report.

CCDIC's investigation team said that it is very difficult for them to collect information from public channels to match the high scores charitable organizations gave themselves. Of all the information, financial auditing and personnel appointments are the most serious blind spots, the report said.

The investigation selected 99 charitable organizations as samples. They included non-public offerings and local nongovernmental organizations for the first time, but received feedback from only 65.

Of the 65, 42 percent of them claimed to have no guidelines on information disclosure, and 37 percent said no staff were specially designated for carrying out related work.

What's worse is that 90 percent of the public is not satisfied with how much information is being disclosed and the way it is made public, the report said.

Among the 99 organizations, 20 percent of them did not have their own websites and, for those with websites, 43 percent were not updated regularly or users found them to be unhelpful when searching for information.

CCDIC's research team believed that a lack of relevant laws and regulations, standard for information disclosure and the training of professional personnel, were the main reason for poor performance in transparency for domestic charitable organizations.

In the field of charity, information disclosure has both mandatory and voluntary aspects. Mandatory disclosure is supervised by a related government department but the difference in responsibilities between governments at all levels made it difficult for MOCA to oversee charities that lack registration records, MOCA experts told the newspaper.

"The information they must disclose is already adequate," Jin Jinping, director of the Center for Nonprofit Organizations Law at Peking University, was quoted as saying .

Domestic foundations receive annual government inspections and submit annual reports every year, but the resultant information is only accessible by the government, not the public. A lack of rating agencies also contributed to the dilemma. Apart from government supervision, there are no independent third-party agencies monitoring these charities, according to Recende, a professional community and social responsibility consultancy.

MOCA is considering drafting guidelines for charity information disclosure.

Source:China Daily
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