Spending in the open

Updated: 2013-07-12 07:25

(China Daily)

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The government has taken a fresh step toward promoting openness, especially government spending.

According to a work program issued by the State Council on Wednesday, provincial governments should disclose their information on sangong - government spending on receptions, vehicles and overseas trips - from 2013, and city and county governments should strive to do the same by 2015.

As part of efforts to build an open, transparent and clean government, the State Council demanded in April last year that provincial governments should make fully public the information on their spending in these areas within two years. The inclusion of lower-level city and county governments means another concrete and substantial measure to push for more openness.

Despite varying estimates about the spending on receptions, vehicles and overseas trips, some put it as high as 900 billion yuan ($146.8 billion) a year, there is no official figure. However, the volume of such outlays is undoubtedly huge, if the country's large number of Party and government functionaries is taken into consideration. Due to the lack of transparency, such spending has been exempted from public oversight, resulting in pervasive abuse of public funds.

There is growing public pressure that information on any spending using taxpayers' money should be made openly available, and putting the operation of power in the sunshine is a necessary step for the government to build itself into a clean one and boost its credibility. It is also a solemn promise made by the Chinese government to the people.

The central government made public its sangong information for 2010 and has done so every year since. Provincial governments followed its lead as required. However, few city or county governments have done the same. The latest move by the State Council is intended to remedy this.

Besides information on sangong, the State Council has also demanded that investigation reports on major accidents should be fully disclosed to the public starting from 2014, and it listed other priorities for information to be made public, such as information on administrative examinations and approval, subsidized housing, and food and drug safety.

This is a broad move toward building a fully open and transparent government and detailed follow-up measures should be worked out for their strict enforcement.

(China Daily USA 07/12/2013 page15)