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3 billion yuan in public housing funds embezzled

By Liu Sha (Global Times)

08:14, July 19, 2012

Almost 3 billion yuan ($471 million) earmarked for the construction of government-subsidized houses for low income earners was embezzled in 2011, according to a report released by the National Audit Office (NAO) on Wednesday.

The NAO audited 66 major cities in 18 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions and found 22 local government departments misused 2.95 billion yuan in funds for low-income housing on some non-public housing projects and infrastructure construction.

The report said that 29 government departments irregularly appropriated or held 2.33 billion yuan of the low-income housing funds.

Low-income houses are being built to solve the housing difficulties faced by mid- and low-income people, and include mainly low-rent houses, affordable housing and government-subsidized houses.

Premier Wen Jiabao said in March last year that the government is committed to building another 10 million units of public housing. In the 66 cities the NAO audited, 7.05 million units were built between November and March.

Among the finished ones, 2,801 low-income housing units were sold as commercial flats and 226 units were used in other ways, said the report, without specifying how.

Meanwhile, 14,600 built units were shelved for over half a year, greatly affecting the housing utilization rate, the report said.

Similar problems occurred in 2009, when 152 million yuan was misappropriated, but the misused funds were later returned, the NAO reported in 2010.

"Despite the fact that there is great demand for government-subsidized houses, the amount of misused funds keeps increasing. The audit reports would be more valid once related departments supervise the execution and prevent similar things from happening again," Shen Shuguang, director of the Institute for Social Policy at Sun Yat-sen University, told the Global Times.

According to the available data on the NAO's official website, from 2008 to 2011, 121 cases passed to the related departments by the NAO have been resolved but none of them is related to the misuse of low-income housing funds.

Li Ruoshan, a professor of auditing with Fudan University, told the Global Times earlier that people who misuse funds should be held accountable, as the audit report calls for follow-up actions, otherwise the report would be meaningless.

It is the fourth time that the NAO has audited funds set aside for low-income housing.

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