Govt departments slash auto expenses

Updated: 2012-08-23 07:10

By Wang Huazhong (China Daily)

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At least 16 government departments in Beijing scrapped plans to spend millions of yuan on new vehicles last year, amid increasing pressure by the government to curb the use of official cars.

According to the final figures on the expenditure of 27 departments, released on Wednesday, 16 of the departments were cautious with their budgets.

More than 50 local government departments in Beijing are being required to reveal their spending for fiscal year 2011.

The disclosure includes a special sheet on the "three expenses", which are closely watched by the public and include official cars, overseas trips and receptions.

Among the departments that felt the pinch, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education made a bold slash by spending only 534,900 yuan ($84,000) on a bus despite its 8.68 million yuan budget to buy new vehicles.

Meanwhile, 15 other departments completely dropped their plans to buy any vehicles.

Despite its 2.75 million yuan budget, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports did not buy any cars. And the same was true for other departments: The Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the municipal statistics bureau, and the municipal agency of cultural heritage.

Most of the departments said the cuts were made "in accordance with the central and municipal governments' special operations to consolidate the use of official cars".

Nil growth

A nationwide investigation of government and Party authorities released in June found that 199,600 vehicles had been purchased or were being used improperly, and 170 people were disciplined.

"In order to implement the municipal government's policy of controlling the number of official cars, we did not purchase new cars to replace old ones that were going to be discarded in accordance with the budget made at the beginning of 2011," said a note attached to the final report of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.

Premier Wen Jiabao has reiterated in many occasions that the "three expenses" should "have nil growth".

Most of China's 98 ministry-level bodies and many provincial-level regions, such as Beijing, have begun revealing their "three expenses" since last year, despite the fact that the country's Budget Law, which is under revision, does not require authorities to do so.

Earlier this month, the Hubei and Hunan provincial governments became the latest to require their departments to disclose public spending on the "three expenses".

Lu Qun, a senior official with the Hunan provincial Party disciplinary commission, said that some of the expenses are inevitable and reasonable, but that some members of the public do not understand some of them and they feel that officials are squandering taxpayers' money.

"Taking the first brave step (to publicize the expenses) is always good," Lu said. "More transparency would force the authorities to tightly manage their expenses."

According to the latest round of Beijing's disclosure reports, most of the 27 departments spent less than the budget they have - with only two exceptions so far.

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Population and Family Planning saved almost 40 percent of its budget. It spent 1.74 million yuan and saved 1.09 million yuan.

However, that was not the case for the Beijing Travel Committee and for the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the Beijing government.

The Overseas Chinese Affairs Office said its 2.2 million yuan spending exceeded its 1.53 million yuan budget mainly because it sent more business delegations abroad and also because it spent some of the funds to manage and oversee a singing competition in other countries.

However, it emphasized that the extra expenditure occurred according to the municipal government's requirements.

Most of the reports were published on the departments' websites or are accessible on the information portal of the municipal government.