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$1.8 million grant withheld pending accounting report

By Giff Johnson MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, March 25, 20111) – In a sign of stepped up accountability in its foreign aid program, Taiwan withheld quarterly aid funding to the Marshall Islands for more than two months before releasing nearly $2 million on Wednesday.

Taiwan Ambassador George T.K. Li on Wednesday delivered a $1.75 million check to Marshall Islands Acting Minister of Finance Brenson Wase — funds that normally would have been released in early January, but were put on hold when this western Pacific nation did not submit a timely report on aid funding use.

The aid was held up when the Marshall Islands was late to provide a report outlining spending of the previous quarter’s funding from Taipei.

This is the first time in the 13-year relationship between Taiwan and the Marshall Islands that aid funding was held up.

The $1.75 million provided Wednesday is fourth quarter 2010 funding for 19 projects.

The quarterly grant "was unable to be released earlier because the delayed progress report from the Marshall Islands government on the use of the third quarter 2010 funding was only made available for the Taiwan government’s review in late January 2011, and supplementary information, in early February," Li said Wednesday.

The government of President Ma Ying-jeou has ratcheted up accountability requirements of aid provided to the Marshall Islands compared to the period under then-President Chen Shui-bian, who is serving 19 years in jail after being found guilty on corruption charges.

Li expressed his government’s commitment to partnership with the Marshall Islands, and "emphasized the core value of the partnership is progressive and sustainable development."

But he also underlined the importance of timely, detailed and updated progress reports to ensure full implementation of the annual grants.

Taiwan and the Marshall Islands established diplomatic relations in 1998.

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