Top legislature scrutinizes gov't expenses budget

08:32, June 28, 2011      

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China has put central government expenses on officials' overseas trips, vehicle purchases and receptions under the top legislature's special review for the first time in a move to curb extravagant public spending.

Minister of Finance Xie Xuren on Monday gave a report to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) about the usage of the central budget in last year, for the legislature's review during its bimonthly session.

The report included a special section of the central government departments' expenditures for overseas travel, receptions and official cars, which are dubbed the "three public consumptions."

Excessive expenditures on these three items have long been criticized as sources of government corruption and waste.

Some party and government officials purchased luxury cars for their units and used them for personal matters. Also, unnecessary celebrations, seminars and forums were held using government funds, triggering widespread public concern.

In mid-April, an online posting revealed that the Guangdong branch of Sinopec, a well-known state-owned petroleum refiner enterprise, spent more than 1 million yuan (154,000 U.S. dollar) on expensive liquor.

After the scandal, the branch's general manager, Lu Guangyu, was removed from office. An investigation showed that he had purchased dozens of bottles of liquor that cost more than 10,000 yuan each.

The repeated cases of extravagant "three public consumptions" indicates the practices of corruption and power abuse will impair the citizens' confidence in the government, said Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance.

Finance Minister Xie said in his report Monday that all of the country's 98 central government departments will unveil their budgets for this year, which will include expenditures on the "three public consumptions."

Last year's related expenditures should also be publicized, Xie said.

Upon receiving approval from the legislature, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) will publish the central government's total administrative expenses as well as the expenditures on the "three public consumptions," he said.

He also asked the local governments publish their own budget information.

"Putting budget expenditures of the 'three public consumptions' under review of the legislature as well as the public is a resolute move of the state to promote budget transparency and supervision of power," Prof. Zhu said.

China issued a regulation on government transparency in 2008, asking administrative agencies to disclose certain information that involve the citizens' interests.

Since then, information about the state's central budget and expenditures of over 70 central government departments have been made public.

In May, the State Council urged the party and government departments to make their financial information public in more areas and provide greater details in the released information, especially in regard to using funds for the "three public consumptions."

Improving the fiscal information transparency is an active response to the public concern over the government corruption and squandering practices, said Liu Shangxi, deputy director of the Research Institute for Fiscal Science of the MOF.

It will also help to increase the people's trust to the government, he said.

In early 2010, a township government in southwest Sichuan Province became famous after it listed all the items of its expenditures online.

Fiscal information released by the government included a "1,269 yuan business dinner" as well as a "pad of writing paper that costed 1.5 yuan."

The township's open online budget attracted over 300,000 netizens' clicks and comments thereafter, and they called the township government "a naked government" for its impressive transparency.

In addition to promoting the supervision of the spending, the central government is also making efforts to reduce such expenditures and improve the government's efficiency.

In March, Premier Wen Jiabao urged the country's government agencies to reduce administrative expenses, including cutting spending on overseas business trips and reforming the system for government service cars.

The government will also reduce extravagance in official business trips and receptions and cut the number of meetings and documents, Wen said.

China's crackdown on various forms of extravagant spending by officials saved the country 5.7 billion yuan (879 million U.S.dollar) last year, Wu Yuliang, Deputy Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said in an earlier interview.

Source: Xinhua
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