Government uses GPS to track officials in Youyang

13:56, April 12, 2011      

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How can government officials be supervised outside working hours? Youyang County in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality gives the answer.

Each official in Youyang who is tracked is provided with a GPS-enabled 3G mobile phone to ascertain his location and is required to keep the phone on 24 hours a day and report their location whenever they are contacted.

If an official's report differs from the GPS reading, they will receive disciplinary action, including public criticism or being asked to resign.

A total of 82 officials in Youyang County had been publicly criticized as a result of the system. Among these officials, 20 received stricter punishment, said a spokesman for the Youyang Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) on April 7.

“We select officials at random, use GPS to track their locations and require them to report their whereabouts by the phone. If they lie, we will punish them with severity,” said Zhang Seng, a worker of the Youyang Inspection Office.

Mu Yong, director of the Youyang Inspection Office, said, at the beginning, we took random inspection three times a month, and now it is twice a month, when about half of them are called randomly.

A local telecom company customized these 3G mobile phones with GPS tracking system. These mobile phones are not allowed to be transferred or lent to others. The phone owner must report whereabouts of the preceding day by phone. When the leading position of an official is adjusted, he or she must hand over the mobile phone to the unit, said Mu Yong.

A total of 239 members, including officials from 39 townships and 106 county-level departments and high-ranking managers in local state-owned enterprises in Youyang county, are covered by the plan, according to a document issued by the Youyang Inspection Office, the government organ that oversees issues relating to corruption among local officials.

A GPS-equipped mobile phone costs about 3,000 yuan (459 U.S. dollars), and the minimum monthly cost is 342 yuan (52 U.S. dollars), all of which is paid by the local government, while additional fees are paid by the phone owner himself. The cost to the government comes to about 1.7 million yuan (260,000 U.S. dollars) every year, Mu added.

A restaurant owner in Mouyang County expressed his approval of this move by the local government. He said citizens raise both hands to support this action. Officials first should be the master of themselves and then they would do good things for common people, he said.

Li Yusheng, a law professor in Chongqing, explained that although the local government's use of GPS tracking to supervise officials has limited these officials' rights to rest and leisure, it does not infringe on their right to privacy. The information gained from the tracking system will not be used in any commercial transaction.

By Ye Xin, People's Daily Online
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