Bulgarian Red Cross: World Partners Are Still With Us

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | February 6, 2006, Monday // 00:00
Bulgarian Red Cross: World Partners Are Still With Us The Director General of the BRC said she hadn’t spoken with Hristo Grigorov since his arrest. Photo by Bulgarian Red Cross

Mrs. Sofia Stoimenova is Director General of the Bulgarian Red Cross (BRC). She has been occupying the post since 2003.

Mrs. Stoimenova spoke to SNA Deputy Editor-in-Chief Petya Bondokova, after last Friday the BRC Chairman Hristo Grigorov was arrested.

Q: Have you found any irregularities in the audits into the activities of the BRC?

A: To control our activities we have a statute book for receiving and distributing humanitarian aid. Those rules are based on Bulgarian law as well as on international standards. I would say that there is control inside the BRC.

This is just a small part of our many activities, and there is a continuing investigation into this sector at the moment.

The BRC also has a Control Committee that includes public figures, as well as a National Council.

I would like to make it clear that the distribution of humanitarian aid is being done in accordance to the rules. It is being carried out by a committee of five members. Decisions cannot be made by a single person.

Q: Do you mean that Mr. Grigorov could not have committed the crime he is being investigated for?

A: I could not say who's guilty and who's not, nor to what extend.

We are very concerned about what's happening, about the arrest of our chairman. If any irregularities are proved, the persons in question will bear their responsibility.

Q: Could there have been lapses during audits?

A: There could be lapses when humanitarian aid has been received for institutional beneficiaries. I suppose that is what the investigation is based upon.

That's when the BRC is asked to receive a donation for the sake of a third party, which should stick to its commitments according to our rules. They sign a declaration to guarantee that the received goods will not be put out for sale. They also must send back to the BRC a list with the all receivers of the aid.

Q: Has the International Committee of the Red Cross contacted you to seek explanation.

A: Yes, of course, they have. We have been in touch ever since the arrest. They are interested in what's happening because the BRC has a very good reputation in Europe and the rest of the world. We have agreements for cooperation with groups in many countries, and have successfully carried out together numerous campaigns for supporting people in need.

Our relationship with international partners have been immaculate and very professional.

Checks that were carried out by international auditors have never found any irregularities. Our partners have always been able to monitor the activities of the BRC, thus building trust between us.

Now we are worried about what out partners might start to think about our organization.

Thousands of honest people are working for the BRC, and they must continue to cooperate, because what they do is for the people in need.

Q: Do you expect for international aid to the BRC to subside?

A: Our partners are staying informed about the situation and giving us advice on how to handle it. It's a respected organization and its good reputation must be preserved. The volunteers should not lose their motivation because of a possible violation.

Q: So the International Committee of the Red Cross has not withdrawn its support?

A: No, they haven't, nor have any of our partners. Many of our partners called to express their content with their work with the BRC and voiced readiness to speak publicly in our defence.

Q: Have you received calls from donors?

A: No, they haven't called. But I know they're worried, as are the volunteers and our many members that have put their trust and time into the BRC.

The fact that a sole person could have breached the rules should not harm the reputation of our organization.

Q: Have any volunteers quit since the arrest of Mr. Grigorov?

A: No, they haven't. I don't have any information about any workers willing to leave. The volunteers know the history of the BRC well; they have been working day and night for relief during recent natural disasters, and have been receiving much gratitude.

I don't think that a single incident should make anyone give up the cause of the BRC.

They can be worried and disappointed but I believe that the volunteers will continue to believe in our organization and its principles.

Q: Have you spoken with Mr. Grogorov after the arrest?

A: No, I haven't.

Q: Will you try to contact him?

A: I guess that he and his family are working on the problem right now. Our lawyers are also staying informed about the situation and will provide us with information. We haven't talked to him.

Tomorrow out National Council will hold a meeting and come up with a decision.

Q: Is Mr. Grigorov still chairman of the BRC in legal terms?

A: I cannot give an answer to that.

A person is innocent until proven guilty, so our Council will decide tomorrow. Things are still developing. We cannot say what the investigation would prove.

Q: What could be the possible outcome of the National Council session?

A: The members of the National Council are public figures who work voluntarily for the BRC. Their position is of key importance and I wouldn't like to speak for them now.

There are different possibilities. It's too early for final conclusions.

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