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Ministries release detailed spending info

Updated: 2012-07-20 02:28
By Wang Huazhong ( China Daily)

Ministerial-level authorities started on Thursday to release more information than they had before about how many cars they maintain and how many overseas business trips they sent officials on this past year.

The disclosures came amid public calls for more transparency in government accounting for the "three expenses": official vehicles, overseas trips and receptions.

Experts said the ministries' detailed releases can serve as examples for local governments, which tend to be more closed to public scrutiny.

Last year, most of the 98 ministerial-level authorities in China released general figures showing how much they had spent on the "three expenses". These were largely met with requests for information that better reflected reality.

On Thursday, at least 15 ministerial-level organizations again released data related to the three expenses, showing how many cars they have and how many delegations they have sent overseas.

The China Writers' Association, for instance, reported it spent 1.09 million yuan ($171,000) on receptions in 2011. It also received 10 visiting delegations consisting of 88 people that year.

The Ministry of Justice reported spending 4.14 million yuan on overseas trips in 2011. It said the trips were mainly undertaken to provide assistance in matters related to international justice, conduct negotiations over the transfer of criminals, prevent crime and promote cooperation.

The ministry said it sent 77 delegations, consisting of 167 people, on overseas business trips that year.

Meanwhile, the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's main economic-planning agency, said it spent 6.82 million yuan on official vehicles in 2011.

The money went toward the purchase of a car for 194,800 yuan, and maintaining 158 official vehicles, it said.

Operating those in 2011 cost 6.62 million yuan, or 41,900 yuan apiece.

The commission said the vehicles were used in the exchange of important documents, business trips in the city and supervision trips.

Some ministries disclosed information not only about themselves but also about divisions under them.

The Ministry of Water Resources, for example, said it and its 346 subordinate organizations spent 80.2 million yuan to operate 1,967 vehicles.

Lawmakers and legal experts praised the disclosures, saying they exhibited "significant progress".

They also expressed hope that local authorities will see the data releases as examples worth following.

"It shows a great change of attitude that so many ministries are taking this initiative and disclosing information," said Li Jingsong, a Beijing lawyer who wrote to 98 ministries last year to encourage them to reveal expense information. "They were really reluctant back then to do this.

"In ancient Chinese thinking, officials were supposed to be the parents of the people. They are now starting to understand, though, that they are servants of the people and that they have to report to the people."

Ye Qing, a deputy to the National People's Congress who has regularly called for reform in the use of official vehicles, also said the disclosures were more informative in 2012 than last year.

Both Ye and Li said the ministries' decision to release more data will push local governments to do the same.

"People can see how officials on the 10th floor are using their money," Li said. "Now they'll expect to know how officials on the first floor, the ones closest to them, are using it."

The State Council issued a directive in June asking governments above the county level to budget for the three expenses.

If officials are found to have mishandled the three expenses or to have used money from other budgets to pay for them, they can lose their positions, the directive said.