Population of ‘sinking villages’ found inflated for more funds

BEIJING – A town in Anhui province has been found to be inflating the number of residents in “sinking villages” in coal mining areas in order to get more relocation funds.

In Panji township, Huainan city in Anhui province, 3,633 residents were said to have received subsidies from the provincial authorities in the first and second stages of the relocation project, totaling about 3.3 million yuan ($516,370), according to the schedule of distributions in 2009 released by the provincial government.

But records from the Panji district, the immediate leadership of the township, showed that only about 2,200 residents had actually been relocated.

“Due to carelessness in our work … more than 1,400 extra residents were reported in 2009,” an unidentified official from the Panji township told the Beijing News.

“We only confirmed the numbers with officials from villages, but did not double-check.”

The district released the results of a preliminary investigation finding that false reports had been made, and it ordered the township to return 759,600 yuan to the province. Further, leaders with major responsibility face administrative punishment.

Another investigation team from the provincial land department also began an investigation in the township on Aug 11.

Coal-rich Panji township has experienced sinkholes in some areas due to mining operations, forcing the relocation of residents. Each affected person could get subsidies from the provincial government and the mining companies, as well as 28 square meters of new living space for free.

But Wang Huaiguang from Zhuzhuang village, Panji township, found some officials from his village made up names out of thin air to get more subsidies, the Beijing News reported on Aug 11.

He said: “The 28 square meters of living area could be worth about 15,000 yuan. So if the township government reported an extra 1,000 people, they could get millions of yuan from the province.”

Villagers questioned what had become of the money.

The Huainan Mining Industry (Group) Co Ltd, the only mining company in Huainan city, also contended that the township had inflated its population, meaning the company had to pay an extra 2 million yuan in compensation to the villagers.

“Subsidies from the province and extra funds from the company would be used for public construction in the new settlement area,” Li Qing, an official in the general management office in the district, told the Beijing News.

Tang Kai, director of the office, said the subsidies were too low to cover construction expenses, since the cost of building materials had risen recently.

“The financial deficit on these relocation projects has reached 110 million yuan for the past two years.”

China Daily

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