Public gets peek at spending

BEIJING – Beijing municipal government departments published details of their spending on overseas trips, official vehicles and receptions online on Monday.

Thirty-three of the 44 government departments made public details of their spending on their websites on Monday as required.

According to Meng Jingwei, a spokesman for Beijing Municipal Bureau of Finance, the departments were all supposed to give details of their spending on a unified form that specifies not just the amount but also the explanation for the expenditure.

The lavish spending of taxpayers’ money on overseas trips, official vehicles and receptions, which are collectively known as san gong, has provoked a storm of criticism nationwide.

Beijing is the first regional government to follow the central government’s lead and publicly detailed its spending on the three items. So far 95 of the 98 central government departments have revealed details of their spending.

The municipal government announced its overall spending on san gong on July 21.

According to Yang Xiaochao, director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Finance, the municipal government spent a total of 1.13 billion yuan ($176.8 million) on the three items in 2010, among which over 80 percent was spent on purchasing and maintaining official vehicles.

Among the 33 government departments in Beijing that have so far announced their spending on the three items, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education tops the list, having spent 134 million yuan on san gong last year.

The commission’s budget covers 48,764 staff members working at 54 public institutions, although according to the analysis provided by the commission, the figure is to be cut by 20 percent in 2011.

The Beijing Municipal Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine was the most prudent of the departments, with a total expenditure of 727,000 yuan on the three items.

For most of the departments, spending on official vehicles is the main expenditure with departments like the Beijing Municipal Commission of City Administration and Environment spending over 70 percent of its san gong on official vehicles.

Meanwhile, although some departments provided a detailed analysis of the spending on overseas trips and official vehicles, the details of the spending on receptions giving by most departments was vague and evasive.

Some departments justify the rise in their spending on receptions with reasons like inflation or more exchange programs and refuse to give any further details.

But despite this, experts said the Beijing Municipal Government had provided a starting point for better public supervision on government spending.

“We need to bear in mind that this is the first time the local government departments have started to publicize their spending on the three items and inevitably there are some areas that can be improved,” Zeng Kanghua, a professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics, told China Daily.

Zeng said the publicizing of government spending should be routine but added that the analysis provided by the departments is still far from clear to the public.

“The analysis provided by the government departments should be easily understandable in a way that can let the public judge for themselves why the departments need to spend so much money.”

Other local governments, such as Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shaanxi province among others, have also made public details of their spending.

Jiang Tuo contributed to this story.

China Daily

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