One of my biggest concerns in the aftermath of the tsunami has been the handling of funds that come in for relief. I will not personally go into the extent of scam possible, but here's info on some efforts that are underway to reduce the amount of cheating.
Thank you for posting the story "Relief at a price for starving children". It is, I am afraid, the first of what will be one of the next big stories about the tsunami disaster and its aftermath.
I am associated with an international movement, Tr-Ac-Net, (Transparency and Accountability Network) that has started the daunting task of trying to make life more difficult for the scammers and rip-off artists that always emerge in crisis situations, and for those that engage in obscene rip-offs. Tr-Ac-Net was organized originally to address the problem of limited transparency and weak accountability in the whole of the official international relief and development arena, from the World Bank down to local NGOs, but the work took on a new urgency with the fund (and other resource) flows now associated with the tsunami disaster.
The first step we are implementing is to sort out those people and organizations that are committed to excellence in transparency and accountability, and those that are unwilling or unable to make such a commitment. This information will soon be easily accessible in a web-enabled database. We also offer help, including open source software, to organizations that are wanting to do well in this area, but do not have the tools and experience to do so.
We are also encouraging feedback about scams, rip-offs and obscene profiteering that takes place. Journalists and other observers of the disaster will see incidents, and these will be documented as much as possible and also included in the database.
After 9/11 there were too many examples of scams and rip-offs, including some in well known organizations. The Tr-Ac-Net program attempts to address the issue before it reaches a problematic level in the current post-tsunami crisis.
Most major fund flows in development are plagued with the problem of limited transparency and weak accountability. Few of the high level managers in relief and development have accounting, management and control experience, and the systems generally are very weak. There is a mindset that accounting slows down implementation, and it certainly will if it is not done, because private donors will not continue their support when scams and rip-offs become front page news.
I would welcome feedback about this program and any incidents of scams and rip-offs that any reader comes across. And on a more positive note, also feedback about excellence in transparency and accountability.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Tr-Ac-Net / WISPforD in New York
Tel: 212 772 6918