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Accommodation for officials should help cut corruption

Updated: 2013-11-21 01:30
By AN BAIJIE ( China Daily)

Government plans to create a nationwide system of accommodation specifically for officials will increase transparency in officials' financial matters and save on public spending, according to analysts.

The planned project was announced as one of the decisions resulting from the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee, which was held from Nov 9 to 12.

According to the decision, the government aims to "explore how to implement an official residence system", although few details were given of when or how the project would be implemented.

The idea was originally floated by the China Society of Administration Reform, an official think-tank, in a report submitted to the CPC Central Committee in July, according to Wang Yukai, the report's lead author.

According to the report, the system is intended to provide accommodation for chief officials at county level and above, as well as officials who are transferred from different places. Official places of residence would be constructed by the government and provided free of charge to incumbent officials, but the officials should move out once their term in office ends.

It is common practice for officials to buy government-subsidized accommodation and then sell it for a profit, said Wang, who is also a public administration professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance.

In other cases, said Wang, officials acquire subsidized apartments in one place, passing them on to their families when the move to a new posting, acquiring additional properties as they go, Wang said.

He suggested that newly promoted government officials should be the first to try the new system, as they are more likely to accept policies based on reforms.

Zhu Lijia, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said that the official accommodation system will boost transparency in the benefits received by officials while cutting down on privilege.

The reform is expected to save on public spending and leave more social resources to help improve the living standards of the general public, he said.

Ma Huaide, vice-president of the China University of Political Science and Law, said that many Western countries have implemented systems of residential accommodation for officials.

The new system is expected to prevent officials from abusing their power in relation to subsidized housing while curbing corrupt activities, he said.

In 2004, the government of Anhui province compiled a register of the homes of officials, after 500 officials at department level were punished for abusing their powers to occupy homes, Southern Weekly reported in June.

In February this year, the Anhui provincial government started a campaign called "Clear Houses" aimed at recovering houses illegally occupied by officials, causing many officials to sell their homes in a hurry, the report said.

Liu Zhijun, the former minister of railways who received a suspended death sentence for taking bribes and abuse of power in July, was discovered to be the owner of 374 houses.

Huang Sheng, former deputy governor of Shandong province who received a life sentence in May, owned 46 apartments, according to the Xinhua News Agency.