Central government reveals details on spending

BEIJING – The Chinese public is getting its first glimpse into what central government departments spend on official receptions, vehicles and overseas trips – the subject of most suspicions concerning misuses of public money.

Sixty ministries and institutions affiliated with the State Council, China’s Cabinet, have so far posted data showing what they spent in 2010 on purchasing and fueling up vehicles, receiving guests and arranging overseas trips for officials, according to research by China Daily.

The statistics showed the 60 ministries and institutions spent more than 3 billion yuan ($467 million) on those three items. The biggest spenders were the General Administration of Customs and its branches, which spent 503 million yuan.

At the other end was the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, which spent 1.45 million yuan.

The spending figures reflected numbers in official budgets and did not necessarily show what was spent through other means.

Meanwhile, about 40 percent of the central government’s ministries and institutions have not released numbers showing what they spent in 2010 on official receptions, vehicles and overseas trips.

Early this month, the Ministry of Finance disclosed that central government departments spent nearly 9.5 billion yuan on the three items this past year.

In July, central government departments also released their 2011 budgets showing how much they plan to spend on official visits, receptions and vehicles. One department said it would lower its total expenditures on the three items by 31 percent below 2010 levels, the largest reduction promised.

The government began releasing expenditure data early this month in response to allegations that public money is often misspent on vehicles, official receptions and overseas travel.

Many experts who have seen the reports have confessed to being overwhelmed by the detail they contain and have raised doubts over how the statistics were produced. That threatens to detract from the figures’ credibility.

“There is not a universal standard for producing these numbers,” said Liu Shangxi, deputy head of the Research Institute of Fiscal Science, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Finance.

Liu said some government departments, for instance, might think that trips taken overseas for training purposes should be reported while others might not.

To ensure there is consistency in the presentation of the data, government departments should make sure they are all using the same means of gathering spending figures, Ye Qing, a member of the National People’s Congress, said in an opinion piece in the Beijing News on Thursday.

Otherwise, the release of such numbers will leave the public more confused than ever, Ye said.

Liu said government departments should also strive to release more details about spending.

“The (general) numbers themselves are meaningless,” Liu said.

Beijing, for its part, announced on Thursday that it spent 1.1 billion yuan on the three items in 2010, making it the first among province-level regions in China to release such data.

Of that total, 130 million yuan was spent on overseas trips taken by Beijing government officials and employees. Ninety million yuan went to official receptions and the rest, about 900 million yuan, on vehicle purchases, fuel and related costs.

Source: China Daily

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