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news 26 May 14

Serbian Govt Urged to Disclose Flood Relief Donations

As Serbia has started determining flood damage, and more than 9 million euros donations arrived on government bank account, experts are calling on transparency of donations and their spending.

Bojana Barlovac, Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Donors' conference held in Belgrade last week.Photo by BETA

More than 967 billion dinars (about 8.5 million euros), almost 872,000 euros and $184,000 are currently in the government bank account for donations to help victims of the floods that hit the country 10 days ago, according to Finance Ministry data on Monday.

A further 481,000 euros has been collected via a PayPal account.

The dramatic floods affected more than 1.6 million people in 39 municipalities, authorities say.

Last week Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic promised that all donations would be made public on a specially created website. But so far only the overall amounts are known, with no information on individual donations as they come in or what the money is spent on.

Independent institutions and NGOs are calling on the government to be clearer about the donations, arguing that this would eliminate suspicions about any improper use of funds and encourage potential donors.

Public Information Commissioner Rodoljub Sabic said the government should make available all data on donations including the time and amount of payment “while protecting a user’s personal data, given the possibility that some donors wish to remain anonymous, as well as a legal obligation to protect personal data".

Transparency Serbia, an NGO, made a similar appeal.

“All this information already exists in electronic databases, and should just be put up on the web site of the government," said Nemanja Nenadic, the group’s programme director.

“We have proposed that data about funds received in the dinar and foreign currency account should be made public, by publishing account statements on a government web site – with the date and amount of each payment, without stating the name of donor -- so that every donor can be sure that their donation has been received,” he added.

Transparency Serbia emphasised that provincial and local bodies that also set up special accounts for donations should publish the same data.

Nenadic said it was even more important for the authorities to provide daily updates on how the money was being spent.

Similar calls have appeared in many forums and on social media.

“We do not want money to go into someone's dirty hands, but to those who really need it the most,” declares a Facebook group entitled “Control of spending of donations for floods victims” that now has more than 7,600 Likes.

The group informs people about the money collected by mobile operators through text messages and other data on donations coming into the country.

Meanwhile, local authorities and the government have started assessing the flood damage. Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday that the cost of repairing the damage would exceed 0.6 per cent of Serbia’s gross national income.

According to government data, 31,879 people have been evacuated from flood-affected areas and 140 shelters have been set up, including 47 in the capital, Belgrade.

Vucic said Serbia would need assistance with its economic recovery for years to come and urged international donors to help with knowhow and money.

In addition to immediate humanitarian assistance from European Union emergency teams, Serbia hopes to receive money from the EU’s Solidarity Fund. Additional funds will be allocated from EU pre-accession funds and European Investment Bank loans.

The United Arab Emirates, Norway and the United States have already made bilateral donations.

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