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Experts warn of challenges in gov't car regulation

(Xinhua)

13:26, May 29, 2012

BEIJING, May 29 (Xinhua) -- An expert on public administration research said China's efforts to regulate public spending on government cars have made some progress, but spending remains high.

Research conducted by the Chinese Public Administration Society (CPAS) in 2009 found that the annual cost of maintaining one government vehicle totaled more than 50,000 yuan (7,915 U.S. dollars), and in some government departments, the cost exceeded 100,000 yuan, according to Shen Ronghua, deputy secretary-general of the CPAS.

Official statistics issued by the Ministry of Finance last year revealed that the country's spending on new government car purchases was rising by 20 percent annually, and annual spending on government car use topped 100 billion yuan.

Moreover, inefficiency and waste are serious problems in the use of official cars, Shen said.

Government spending on official vehicles as well as spending on overseas trips and official receptions are commonly seen by the public as three major sources of corruption and waste in China.

The abuse of administrative power without due supervision is the root cause of excess in regards to official cars, said Zhuang Wei, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory body.

These cars are consuming not only energy and environmental resources, but also the public's trust in the government, Zhuang said.

Some local governments in China have made pilot reform efforts to cut government spending on official cars, such as offering transportation subsidies instead of granting government cars, setting up special agencies to manage all official cars among various departments and installing GPS devices on the cars to monitor private or unnecessary use.

However, not all of the efforts have proven successful.

A program in a district government of the city of Liaoyang in northeast China's Liaoning province, which offered 80,000 yuan of annual subsidy for each county-level official instead of a special car, garnered criticism, as the public saw the program not as a reform effort, but as a salary hike for the officials.

The program was abandoned one year after it was launched.

Shen indicated that the formation of a reform program for official car use in central government departments is underway.

Experts also stressed transparency in government car regulation reform.

Intensified supervision, including public and media supervision, is crucial for the regulation, Zhuang said.

The State Council, China's Cabinet, ordered ministries and local governments to disclose more public spending information after an executive meeting of the State Council last month.

Central government departments have been told to publish the sum of spending on government cars as well as the number of cars they have recently purchased and ones they had already owned.

Admitting that effective regulation remains an arduous job, Zhuang noted the importance of authorities' careful arrangement as well as their resolution and concrete actions in advancing the reform.

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