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Transport officials top China's graft roster
Updated: 2005-03-31 08:56

The names of 17 provincial transportation officials convicted of corruption over the past eight years were listed at the top of China's section of the 2005 World Corruption Report published by the Transparency International this month.

Bi Yuxi, former vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Communications, was sentenced to death with a two-year suspension by a Beijing court on March 16, 2005. He was found taking bribes of over 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million). [file photo]
Bi yuxi, the former deputy director of the Beijing Communications Bureau, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve - essentially life in prison - on March 16 for taking 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) in bribes and embezzling 3 million yuan in state-owned assets.

Before that, 16 directors of provincial transportation departments in 10 provinces had been convicted since 1997, along with hundreds of corrupt transportation officials of lower ranks.

The frequent disclosure of corruption cases in transportation departments has aroused a lot of attention from the public and the media, which attributed this unusual phenomenon to the country's rapid transport infrastructure development and lack of effective supervision mechanism.

China has invested more than 1.7 trillion yuan in its highway infrastructure since 1998, nearly twice the total of the previous 40 years. The total length of China's expressways, just 10,000 kilometers in 1999, reached 34,000km by the end of 2004, ranking second in the world.

The huge influx of money into the sector brought China not only thousands of expressways and railways, but also hundreds of corrupt officials, especially those in charge of transportation projects. Most have been sentenced to long-term prison sentences or death for taking huge bribes.

The chinese media have shown that many of the corrupt officials were once honest but turned crooked after becoming heads of transportation departments.

Most of China's transportation infrastructure projects are funded, built and supervised by local governments, meaning that investors, builders and supervisors practically belong to the same department.

"In such circumstances, without effective supervision, it is not strange for those in charge of the project to pocket several million from the total cost of several billion yuan," said a veteran transportation official, who declined to be named.

The power to handle huge sums of money made transportation officials de facto lords of government-funded construction projects, which have led to the most serious bribery scandals in China.

Ju jinwen, professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the monopoly of the government department is the main reason for rampant corruption among transportation officials.

He said the only way to solve the problem is to introduce market-oriented investment and management system for state-funded transportation projects.

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