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Public participation would guard use of donations

By He Bolin (Chinadaily.com.cn)

08:34, May 15, 2012

Charity has developed substantially in recent years in China but it has also been stricken with controversies and concerns over a low level of transparency and the necessity for reforms.

Nearly four years ago, a powerful earthquake devastated counties in Southwest China's Sichuan province, and this evoked a nationwide tide of donation.

However, charities have not yet become fully ingrained in Chinese society, and annual contribution figures may differ widely, depending on a variety of factors, including catastrophes, a government monopoly of charitable foundations, a low level of efficiency and transparency.

In 2008, mainly because of the Wenchuan earthquake, the total sum of donations nationwide surpassed 100 billion yuan ($15.83 billion), but it dropped to 54 billion yuan the next year. People are sometimes perplexed and angered by scandals such as misuse or embezzlement of donations. Even the reconstruction of quake-hit Wenchuan and several other counties was not exempt from such irregularities.

After more than 3 years and 1.7 trillion yuan in spending, the reconstruction and development efforts in the quake-hit areas were largely completed early this year.

But this focus on philanthropy has also been clouded by negative news. According to a report by the National Audit Office on April 20, irregularities were found in 63 reconstruction projects — involving 26 construction units, four surveying and design departments and eight project supervision divisions.

The irregularities include construction projects being undertaken without proper feasibility reports or environmental impact reports, excessive investment, random changes of construction plans, and some companies not upholding standards, using inferior materials and illegally subcontracting projects.

This rekindled controversy about the low level of transparency of charity foundations and the use and distribution of donations in China.

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