Government disclosure should be transparent, easy to understand

08:04, August 02, 2011      

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With the disclosure from State Bureau of Material Reserve, State Administration for Religious Affairs, Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of Justice in the last week of July, more than 80 percent of central government agencies have disclosed their "three public consumptions" so far.

Overall expenditures decline

"Three public consumptions" refers to the expenditures of central government agencies for overseas trips, reception, and the purchase and maintenance of official vehicles. The Party and government agencies that made the earliest disclosure, reported the sharpest decrease and the largest amounts are the most eye-catching.

The Ministry of Science and Technology, the first government department to disclose the "three public consumptions" made the expenditure public on April 14, winning praise and applause from the public.

Party and government departments with the sharpest decrease also drew praise. The National Council for Social Security Fund reported 2010 final accounts stood at 6.7814 million yuan and 2011 budget 5.92 million yuan, a decrease of 860,000 yuan or a 12 percent decline. The Ministry of Public Security reported 2010 fiscal expenditure of 181.3648 million yuan and 2011 budget of 168.6524 million yuan, a decrease of 12.8 million yuan or a 7 percent decline.

The public also tend to pay attention to the central government agencies with the largest expenditure. State Administration of Taxation and General Administration of Customs reported expenditures over 2.1 billion and 500 million yuan, respectively. The customs administration at various levels spent more than 90 percent of the expenditure on the purchase and maintenance of official vehicles. The expenditures of the State Administration of Taxation incorporated 3,567 different budgetary units.

How can the data be interpreted?

Jia Kang, director of the Research Institute for Fiscal Studies under the Ministry of Finance said that it is hard to measure whether the "three public consumptions" are high or low with one yardstick when considering agencies have different staff sizes and job functions. Generally speaking, most central government agencies reported declines in the "three public consumptions".

According to statistics released by the Ministry of Finance, the 2010 final accounts of the central government stood at 9.47 billion yuan, while the 2011 budget totaled nearly 9.43 billion yuan, a decline of 42 million yuan. The central government implemented a goal of zero growth in the "three public consumptions" thanks to two years of cutbacks to administrative expenditures.

Knowing is the precondition of supervision

Reactions to the government disclosure were mixed. Some data is too simple and lacks necessary explanation so that the public, who do not have professional background knowledge, cannot understand. It is necessary to ask why these government departments cannot make the information more concrete and detailed. How can the right to know and supervise of the ordinary people be protected if they cannot make much from the data?

Experts think that the "three public consumptions" attracted the most public attention and the government should respond to public queries. Only through public supervision can we increase the efficiency of fiscal funds and ensure the rational and reasonable use of taxpayer's money.

It is the first time for central government agencies to disclose their expenditures, so there is no reference, that is to say, the public can make comparison only through regular disclosure. More importantly, there must be policy support to prevent the disclosure from being a mere formality, and the mechanism of audit and accountability are also needed to supervise and restrict the expenditure.

Reform on official vehicles should be accelerated

Expenditure of purchase and maintenance of official vehicles accounted for more than 60 percent of the "three public consumptions". However, between the statistics, there are serious problems.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the "three public consumptions" of central government agencies added up to 9.47 billion yuan in 2010, with expenditure on purchase and maintenance of official vehicles accounting for 6.169 billion yuan, taking up more than 60 percent of the total expenditure.

The expenditure of the Beijing municipal government in 2010 totaled 1.13 billion yuan, with vehicle purchases and maintenance accounting for 910 million yuan, taking up almost 80 percent of the total expenditure. The expenditure on official vehicles has become a heavy burden for both central and local governments.

Is it necessary to buy so many vehicles? Will the reduction of vehicle size affect the function of central government agencies? Almost 30 percent of official vehicles were stored in garages during the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and over the past two years, when the city took measures to ease traffic jams, and the efficiency of municipal government has not been affected.

The call for the reform on official vehicles started some 15 years ago but has never been put into practice. So it is evident how hard the reform would be. With the improvement of people's livelihood, private vehicles have become accessible to ordinary Chinese families. Why do government official use official cars for their own convenience? Great efforts should be made to facilitate the reform on official vehicles and impose strict controls on official vehicles. That is the best remedy to cool down the "three public consumptions."

By Zhang Xinyi, People's Daily Online
  Weekly review  


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