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Government car fleet up for auction

By Ling Yuhuan (Global Times)

11:06, June 26, 2012

BEIJING, June 26 (Xinhuanet) -- In what appears to be a display of their commitment to reduce public spending, local authorities in Zhejiang Province said they will put more than 80 percent of their fleet of government cars under the hammer by the end of the year.

Starting Monday, about 1,300 cars owned by official organs in Wenzhou were to be sold at six separate auctions, officials said.

At the first auction Monday, 215 cars were sold reaping in a total of 10.6 million yuan ($1.7 million). The bidding was 61.92 percent higher than the original asking price.

Some 106 administrative departments and 207 official institutions will participate in the program, authorities said. Officials who have lost the use of government cars will receive transportation subsidies ranging from 300 yuan per month to 3,100 yuan, based on their rank and position.

Wang Zhenyu, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times that the move was a good sign that local governments are making some progress in addressing the issue.

"But if the cars of State-owned enterprises are also included, I'm afraid that the number of cars waiting to be auctioned would be much bigger," Wang said.

He also suggested that the public should be told how the money earned from these auctions will be spent.

Officials at Wenzhou government were not available for comment Monday.

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 cars topped 100 billion yuan.

The State Council ordered ministries and local governments to disclose more public spending information earlier this year.

Central government departments have been told to publish how much they spend on cars, how many they have recently purchased and provide an inventor of the vehicles they own. Provincial governments have been given two years to disclose their spending.

Some local governments in China have made initial 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 cars to monitor their use.

However, not all of the efforts have proven successful.

A program in a district government of Liaoyang, Liaoning Province, which offered a 80,000-yuan annual subsidy for each county-level official instead of a car, garnered criticism.

The program was abandoned within a year.

Wang pointed out that the government still has a long way to go to further the reform.

"The biggest roadblock relating to government cars is from the vested interest groups. They are both the policy makers of the reform and the beneficiaries of the cars," said Wang.

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