Government foundation to clarify 9-21 quake spending

The China Post staff

A government-controlled foundation, established for reconstruction of areas damaged by the 9-21 earthquake, will address problems stemmed from its questionable handling of funds and will clearly explain how the money was used, said Vice Premier Chang Chun-hsiung yesterday. “I believe that the foundation, following its reshuffle, will handle problems related to the misuse of government funds in an efficient manner, and that it will soon explain how the money was used,” Chang said while reporting the government’s post-quake reconstruction work to the Control Yuan yesterday. It has yet to be known how much money was inappropriately used, but according to Chang, the foundation allocated around NT$9 billion of its total NT$13.4 billion fund to various post-quake reconstruction plans, even though many quake victims have complained that they have yet to experience the government’s relief efforts. The vice premier’s remarks came one day after Shieh Jyh-cherng, executive director of the 9-21 Reconstruction Foundation, admitted that part of the organization’s NT$13.4 billion funds had been misused during the past year. According to Shieh, large amounts of government funds collected from public donations were inadequately used because of the government’s inability to find the quake victims’ real needs.

As a result, while the government dissipated a substantial portion of the funds, many victims have been left helpless. According to reports of the Ministry of Interior, only 20 percent, or 200,000, of all victims whose houses were seriously damaged during the devastating quake, had received government loans for reconstruction. Due to poorly designed reconstruction plans and intricate application process for government loans, many victims failed to obtain the help they badly need, Shieh said. The situation further deteriorated when funds were embezzled by officials during the distribution process, Shieh added. In response, Lu Ren-fa, state public prosecutor general, said yesterday that investigator will do their best to check if any malpractice was involved during the funds distribution.

The government established the foundation, chaired by Koo Chen-fu, to handle the NT$13.4 billion donations it received from the private sector following the 9-21 quake. However, the organization has been accused since its establishment of mishandling the relief resources.

Both Koo and one of the foundation’s vice president, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, resigned from the body earlier this year. Although local media reported that Nita Ing, vice president of the foundation, is a likely candidate to chair the foundation, nothing has been confirmed yet.