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Red Cross hit for improper use of Haiti donations

By Bae Ji-sook

The Korean National Red Cross (KNRC) came under fire for its slack management of funds for the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

It has spent only 1.2 billion won ($1 million) or 12.8 percent of the 9.7 billion won in total donations raised so far though it has been nine months since the natural disaster took place, according to Rep. Kang Myung-soon of the Grand National Party.

Most of the money spent so far was used to cover the costs for activities by the medical teams, Kang said. During an audit by the National Assembly into the government-subsidized organization Tuesday, the improper use of donations was uncovered.

Of the total funds, 6.6 billion won has been sitting idly in two term deposit accounts, and only a negligible amount of money has been used to directly assist the Haiti victims.

Of the 1.2 billion won, only 675 million won has been used to benefit the victims firsthand through the international Red Cross, while the rest covered the airfare for the international Red Cross medical team, and other operational costs, she said.

The lawmaker also denounced the organization for providing high-end hotel lodging for the medical team in the Dominican Republic before they crossed the Haitian border. She claimed that they stayed at a pricey hotel and even consumed six bottles of soju at 10,000 won per bottle.

“They should have been more prudent in spending money collected through the goodwill of ordinary donators,” she said.

The Red Cross was also blamed for saving the leftover donations in the bank. Two accounts hold 3.3 billion won each. “Why would the Red Cross need to save it in a bank when there are people in need of assistance that the money could provide? The organization promised to spend the money by next year, but I seriously doubt that,” she said.

For its part, the Red Cross explained that it had deposited the money for interest gains.

“In the case of the earthquake in China or Tsunami in the Southeast Asian countries, the money was spent over a period of several years. International experts also confirmed that Haiti’s recovery will take years,” said Yoo Chong-ha, head of the KNRC. “We have tried to benefit from even the smallest interest the bank could give us to last over the long term,” he added.

“The money has been spent on delivering blood and other medical supplies. We have also supported rebuilding housings through the international Red Cross. We will make the most use of the fund,” the organization later stated.

bjs@koreatimes.co.kr
 
 
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