Coronavirus outbreak

S'pore Red Cross: Donations for China will be properly used

Mr Samuel Ng, manager of the Singapore Red Cross' international services, having a meeting on Wednesday with members of the Covid-19 response team at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Asia-Pacific regional office in
Mr Samuel Ng, manager of the Singapore Red Cross' international services, having a meeting on Wednesday with members of the Covid-19 response team at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Asia-Pacific regional office in Kuala Lumpur. He arrived in Beijing yesterday. PHOTO: SINGAPORE RED CROSS

It assures donors measures in place to ensure this, amid controversy at China Red Cross

As the Chinese authorities take action to remove those found to have mismanaged donations and relief goods at the China Red Cross, the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) yesterday assured donors that it has put in place measures to ensure public funds sent to China are not misused.

This includes partnering with more than one organisation in China and sending two of its representatives overseas to provide SRC with "constant and timely updates" on how resources from Singapore are used in China.

SRC secretary-general Benjamin William told The Straits Times: "Thousands of us are continuing to work hard to meet humanitarian needs.

"We are working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and World Vision, and not with the China Red Cross directly."

SRC on Wednesday said it sent $2.26 million worth of aid to China as part of the first phase of its relief efforts to help contain the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The amount will go to, among other things, buying and distributing supplies like masks, medical equipment and hygiene items.

This comes from more than $6 million in donations it raised towards these efforts in Singapore. SRC will work with its partners regarding how the remaining funds will be used for projects in China.

Earlier this month, healthcare workers in Wuhan in China's Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus outbreak, and elsewhere in the country expressed anger at the China Red Cross, saying that supplies have not reached them despite overwhelming donations.

The Chinese authorities found that some officials and cadres with the China Red Cross Hubei branch failed to take responsibility when receiving and distributing donated funds and relief goods.

Yesterday, SRC's Mr William said he was "heartened" that the Chinese government acted swiftly to remove those responsible and urged the public not to "paint all volunteers with the same brush" just because of a few black sheep.

As one of the safeguards to ensure the donations from Singapore are not mismanaged in China, SRC sent a representative there - Mr Samuel Ng, the manager of the charity's international services.

 
 

Mr Ng arrived in Beijing yesterday and was appointed to work with the charity's partners - World Vision and IFRC - on the ground.

The 27-year-old has been involved in distribution missions such as the purchase and delivery of 5,000 first aid kits to the Red Cross in North Korea, and has been with the charity for about a year.

Mr William said that Mr Ng "is not just one person" as he is working with trusted partners on the ground. "With him, we will get more regular updates about what is being procured and how it is used," he added.

He said that SRC is careful to make sure medical and other supplies that are bought are both required by the needy and also approved by the Chinese government because, otherwise, they could be discarded.

SRC also sent 34-year-old Victor Ng, a volunteer with the SRC since 2016, to IFRC's Asia-Pacific regional office in Kuala Lumpur.

Because the supplies to be sent to China are bought there, it is particularly important for SRC to have a representative in Kuala Lumpur, said Mr William.

 
 

On top of that, SRC and its partners will follow many of the protocols used by the Singapore Government and organisations here to maximise value, including getting quotations from several retailers before making purchases. Proper audits will also be carried out.

Adding on to his assurance earlier that SRC is committed to the highest standards of accountability and transparency in its fund disbursement and project management, Mr William said that "we will continue to be careful".

The public can still donate to SRC to help those affected in China by the coronavirus. They can do so by mailing a cheque (payable to Singapore Red Cross Society; indicate "Coronavirus Response 2020" on the back) to Red Cross House at 15 Penang Lane; or in cash at the same address, from Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2020, with the headline 'S'pore Red Cross: Donations for China will be properly used'. Print Edition | Subscribe