Disclose officials' salaries

Updated: 2012-04-19 11:22

(China Daily)

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A postgraduate student at Shanghai Jiao Tong University sent letters to 53 ministry-level departments of the central authority on Apr 13, asking them to disclose the salaries their heads received in 2011. He quoted stipulations of the Government Information Disclosure Regulations as support for his application.

Some experts in finance studies and the National People's Congress have claimed that civil servants' salaries are private information that does not need to be revealed to the public.

But as taxpayers the public have the right to know how their money is being spent and whether the assets held by officials are in line with their incomes.

Although the regulations do not specify that civil servants' incomes and assets are disclosable information, they do specify that the public have the right to know any government information that concerns their fundamental interests as long as the information does not threaten national security.

The central government actually issued regulations about information disclosure in 1995, 2001, 2006 and 2010, each more detailed and binding than the last. These four rules clearly indicate that the authority is aware of the importance of monitoring officials' personal and family assets as a means of controlling corruption.

The regulations require that civil servants above the deputy county head level report their incomes and assets and those of their spouses and children to disciplinary inspection organs.

According to a survey by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in late 2011, 63.6 percent of the sampled civil servants support disclosing civil servants' incomes and assets for public supervision.

A nationwide system of public supervision, like those already piloted by some local governments such as in Zhejiang and Sichuan provinces, will be a step forward in this direction.

However, it is not that easy to make such a mechanism work well. To what extent public supervision can play its part in rooting out corruption depends on how the system is implemented and functions. It should be built and enforced step by step.

For example, it should begin with some fields such as construction, food and drug administration and quality control, which closely concern the public.

So far, only the State Food and Drug Administration has responded to the student's request in any way, the relevant authorities should comply with the public's right to know.