Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Burning The Red Cross

Once again, problems with the Red Cross, only this time it's not entirely their fault. The scope of the Katrina disaster was so great, they outsourced a lot of their volunteer work to private contracters, who took advantge of their positions to enable their friends to collect money targeted for homeless Gulf Coast residents. The majority of this fraud came from a contact center in Bakesfield California. The Red Cross, and the contributors, and of course the victims, were defrauded to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least.

The Red Cross itself came under scrutiny when it failed to deliver a large portion of contributions it received in the wake of 9/11, saying it should keep a portion of the money in the event of futue disasters. There was a big stink raised over this, and the then diector, Dr. Bernadette Healey, ended up resigning her position.

This in itself should have brought national attention to the problems with this dinosaur, behemoth organization, which went to it's overall structural integrity. It's a problem that's been around a while, one which I have personal first hand knowledge of. I had an uncle, now deceased, who was a sergent in the Viet-Nam era, in the Air Force, stationed in Thailand. While there, his wife had a baby, that died soon after birth. He had no way of getting home, and so turned to the Red Cross. He was told they could not help him. As a result, he would have not been able to make it home to be with his wife at their childs funeral, had he been unable to borrow the money. Luckily, his father, my grandfather, was able to wire him the money, and so he made it home.

He had not been there four hours when a representative of the Red Cross approached him at my grandparents house, offerring his condolences, and assurring him if there was any way the Red Cross could help, he should let them know. He told them to go to hell. I guess he had more integrity than I do, I would have accepted the offer, putting the confusion down to an example of bureacratic bungling and red tape.

But that's just the point. When you deal with any large organization, even a charitable one, it gets to the point that overhead expenses become the primary concern. By the time all this is taken care of, there isn't that much left over for the actual services the organizations are suppossedly meant to perform. I'm afraid that way too often, red tape becomes more of a convenient excuse than an actual reason.

But in the case of this latest example, where the Red Cross is not the actual culprits, the question becomes, how hard can it be to vet the private contactors to ensure they are reliable and trustowrthy? Even with the reasoning that action had to be taken quickly, there should have been some kind of oversight of the contractors.

At least, the Red Cross has promised swift action will be taken to violate the offending parties. Here's hoping they don't bungle this job.