China / Government

Govt vehicle use reform goes deeper

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-01-05 18:08

BEIJING - China's government vehicle-use reform will now shift to the local government level, but more effort is needed to ensure it achieves its full potential.

Reform at the central government level was successful in 2014 and the next stage is expected to finish by the end of 2015, according to the timetable set by central authorities in July 2014.

Officials below ministerial level will no longer be provided with a car and a driver and public servants will now receive a "proper" allowance to cover their own choice of transportation.

The use of government vehicles for private purposes, once a common practice, has been labeled "corruption on wheels", new measures aim to address this issue.

The budget for the purchase and maintenance of government vehicles in 2014 was 4.127 billion yuan, 126 million yuan less than in 2013, according to the Finance Ministry.

Head of the ministry's Research Institute for Fiscal Science Jia Kang estimates related expenditure will drop by 7 percent.

In the long run, if factoring in the maintenance costs of the vehicles and other administrative fees, expenditure on government vehicles will be cut by half, according to Jia.

It is important to note that if supporting policies and regulations are not well throughout, there will still be space for corruption.

So, questions need answering: How can the selling of state-owned assets at unreasonably low prices at auction be avoided? How can local governments and state-owned companies be prevented from giving "official" subsidies through other means? How can officials be prevented from "borrowing" cars from companies or individuals?

Transparency is the only solution, including making details of auctions, government expenditure on cars and subsidies and the incomes of public servants available to the public.

The public not only has the right to know how much the government spends or saves, but also how it does it.

On the other hand, policies should be carefully considered and designed in order to not affect the day-to-day work of the government.

Some public servants have complained that allowances -- which should be no more than 1,300 yuan (about 209 U.S. dollars) per month at the central level and no more than 1690 yuan at the local level -- cannot cover their transportation costs.

Some observers are worried that in response, some officials may cut back on necessary meetings, visits or trips.

Allowances and subsidies should be assigned in accordance with local economic development level and work requirements. Therefore, reform measures are not just about reducing the number of government vehicles and sacking drivers to cut costs.

A comprehensive system, including policy making, implementation, supervision and performance evaluation, must be established and improved, to help the government become cleaner and more transparent.

And that is what the public really wants to see.

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