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More NGOs to provide govt services

By An Baijie  (China Daily)

13:05, August 01, 2013

State Council says local authorities should contract out needed work

The central government said on Wednesday that it will promote the purchase of public services from social organizations in order to meet public demand more comprehensively and efficiently.

More qualified NGOs, institutions and companies will be allowed to offer services to government authorities, according to an executive meeting of the State Council presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.

The meeting found that local governments should assess public demand for services, clarify what kind of services to buy, and then purchase them from social organizations with good reputations, making use of a variety of methods, including contracts and authorizations.

"The purchase of public services must go through a strict budget and audit process to make sure that the government's limited funds are used in addressing the people's most urgent needs," said the meeting.

Some local governments have already started pilot projects to purchase public services in recent years.

In the Hongkou district of Shanghai, some services for the elderly have been contracted to the Old-Age Service Center, which has 20 telephones to answer requests from elderly people, according to a report of Ban Yue Tan, a magazine run by the Xinhua News Agency.

Yuan Fengying, 82, made a phone call to the service in June and told the assistant that she needed a haircut. The center contacted a hair salon, and a day later, a hairdresser visited Yuan's home and gave her a haircut.

The center is paid from local government funds earmarked for social services for the elderly, said the report.

The central government spent 200 million yuan last year on 377 projects with social service organizations, directly benefiting over 2 million people, according to a report released in April by the NGO Research Center at Tsinghua University.

On March 28, the State Council required its relevant departments to formulate detailed policies regarding the purchase of public services by the end of December.

Deng Guosheng, director of the NGO research center, said that buying public services from social organizations is expected to improve services in terms of both quality and efficiency.

"If the organization cannot provide good services, the government can purchase them from many other organizations. Competition will provide more choice," he said. "In the 1980s, Western countries started buying public services from social organizations on a massive scale, and the Chinese government should learn from their experiences."

However, Deng warned that the government must enhance supervision of the buying process and make sure that only qualified organizations win bids for services.

"Some officials set up companies in the name of their relatives and buy the public services from their own companies," he added.

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