By David Bandurski — Over the past week in China there has been an outpouring of support for victims of the Sichuan earthquake. Donation drives around the country have drawn in millions upon millions of yuan for the relief effort. But in a country where institutional corruption is a perennial headache, how can Chinese citizens who have opened their hearts and their wallets for the victims of this disaster ensure that relief donations reach those who need them?

In a recent article, columnist Lao Dan (老蛋) said this was a question not just about accountability, but about the dignity of the Chinese people. Lao called for the creation of a special authority to oversee the use of donations and make regular reports to the Chinese public.

“We have a responsibility to demand that the government establish an interim authority to conduct a transparent and effective audit of donations,” he wrote.

Portions of the article follow.

On this issue, we also recommend that readers check out CMP’s case study on the Project Hope corruption case, reported by CMP fellow Zhai Minglei (翟明磊).

Aside from Giving Donations, There is Something Important Required of Us
By Lao Dan (老蛋)

In recent days, countless Chinese have devoted great love in the face of disaster, and countless tears have washed our inner hearts. And still, all of our words and donations cannot remedy the sadness and hurt of those disaster victims who have lost their loved ones. All of our angst and toil cannot bring back the precious lives of loved ones lost.

Everyone is asking within him or herself, how can I do my part for this disaster? . . .

The vast majority of people have decided to donate money, and this is the best and most direct method. For days now an ever-rising amount of donations has served to sooth the hearts of people across the nation.

However, there is one other thing we need to do . . . For the disaster area, for those brothers and sisters who have lost their children, for those brothers and sisters who have lost their parents and relatives . . . we have a responsibility to demand that these donated funds are dispensed under effective supervision by relevant government authorities in order to ensure that they are actually used for disaster victims, in order to ensure that they can really help disaster victims rebuild their homes, and to ensure that the Chinese people are not deprived of their dignity in the face of this massive disaster.

We have a responsibility to demand that the government establish an interim authority to conduct a transparent and effective audit of donations, and make regular reports to the public via the media and the Internet. We must know that the work of rebuilding after this disaster will not happen overnight, that we have a long road of disaster relief ahead of us . . .

So, as we all face this disaster together, we have a personal responsibility to call on and supervise government units using donated funds to ensure that they are used transparently. The state has a responsibility to empower relevant offices to supervise the use [of funds]. And those units distributing and using the donated funds have a responsibility to put the people of the nation at ease, knowing that the funds they donated to fundraising efforts are used for disaster relief . . .

[Posted by David Bandurski, May 21, 2008, 5:35pm HK]