Govt puts out details of budgets

09:17, May 23, 2011      

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The public can expect to review the ways that the central government departments spend tax money on overseas travel, cars and receptions for the first time in June.

Eighty-eight of China's 98 central government departments had published their budgets by Friday, the Ministry of Finance said, whereas 75 departments had done so last year.

Earlier this month, an executive meeting of the State Council, China's Cabinet, ordered the 98 central government departments to publish such information this year.

Certain departments have gone so far as to release budgets showing their spending on specific items, rather than spending on certain categories or spending out of certain funds, the Ministry of Finance said on Saturday on its website.

And as expected, the ministry said it has collected data regarding the money spent on overseas travel, receptions, and official cars in 2010, three expenditure items believed to offer especially strong temptations toward corruption. The ministry plans to report its findings to China's top legislature in June.

Upon receiving the legislature's approval of the report, the Ministry of Finance and other departments will publish information about their spending on the three items for 2010 alongside their planned spending for 2011.

Taxpayers in China have seldom been able to review spending on the three items.

Responding to what many consider to be an absence of transparency, the State Council issued a statement in May saying, "the access to financial budgets still falls short of people's expectations, especially since some departments lag behind others in making their budgets public and some of the information being released does not contain enough details."

The State Council called on Party and government departments to manage their money in accordance with the law and improve the "depth and scope" of the financial information being released.

Many government administration experts said the progress toward those goals announced by the Ministry of Finance is a "good start" on China's "long road to full transparency".

"Only detailed budgets can actually enable our people to participate in supervision," said An Tifu, a professor in fiscal finance at Renmin University of China.

"But it's not only the spending on these three items that attract public attention that ought to be disclosed. More departments should release details on other items, in accordance with international standards".

Government officials told China Daily that audits and other checks are needed to ensure published budgets are credible, since there are many ways to practice deceptive accounting. Spending on travel, cars and lavish receptions, for example, can be recorded under categories.

The Ministry of Science and Technology published its annual budget in April, saying it will spend about 40.2 million yuan ($6.2 million) on overseas trips, vehicle purchases and official receptions this year.

In 2010, 18 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities disclosed their fiscal budgets and budgets for government funds and 27 provincial-level regions publicized such information in 2011.

Source:China Daily
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