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District civil servants' finances made public

By Cang Wei and Song Wenwei in Nanjing | China Daily | Updated: 2012-08-29 07:26

While officials at or above a certain level in China are required to report their personal incomes every year, a district in Xuzhou of Jiangsu province went one step further and made the declarations public.

According to the local government of Xuzhou's Jiawang district, the 600 officials at section head level and higher are obliged to declare their personal assets, including real estate, savings and investments, and those of their spouses and children.

All the information has been uploaded to the local government's official website, which is available to the public.

Some residents, however, are skeptical of the information, and officials acknowledge that it isn't verified before it is put online.

Zhang Qiuyue, director of the district's commission for discipline inspection, said that most cities and districts using the property declaration system just upload the information on the internal website of the workplace, and only those newly promoted officials' information is publicized.

"But Jiawang district decided to do something differently and thoroughly," Zhang said.

"All the officials, both senior and newly promoted, are required to declare their assets on the government's official website and receive supervision from netizens and the public."

Lin Zhe, a professor of anti-corruption research at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, applauded the initiative.

"Jiawang district has made great progress in practicing property declaration," she said. "It's better to encourage officials to declare property first and then develop relative mechanisms for audits and supervision."

However, local officials' declarations are not verified before they are put on the Internet. Most of the officials declare that they just have one apartment and no investments.

Hou Changdong, a resident of the district, said that she has heard that some officials have more than one apartment.

"The declaration system will have a credibility crisis if the information uploaded is untrue," Hou said. "I hope that the system can be applied to all the districts of the city and even the whole country."

Zhang acknowledged that the local government did not verify the declaration, and that some officials did conceal their assets.

"Those who conceal their assets will be punished according to Party discipline after being reported and verified. They'll suffer pressure since they lied to the public," Zhang said.

Lin said that audits of officials' declaration is easy to implement because each workplace has its own finance and audit departments, and banks are not hard for the government to get in touch with.

She added that she has long suggested that officials of the same level be encouraged to bring each other's misconduct to light.

"Since they compete for the same promotion, generally they won't shield each other, and it'll be an effective way to enforce the declaration."

She added: "China had issued an income declaration regulation as early as in the mid-1990s, according to which officials at the level of deputy-county head or higher must report their yearly personal income, interests and investments, and those of their spouse and children. But for many years, the regulation wasn't implemented because it would have influenced some officials' interest."

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Wang Huazhong contributed to this story.

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