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Ending misuse of funds

China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-28 08:05

The National Audit Office's findings that several central government departments and agencies have misused public funds reveal the necessity to mete out harsher punishment to wrongdoers.

Policymakers must also figure out how to effectively strengthen supervision to prevent more such cases from happening in the future.

The auditing authorities reported that some central ministries and agencies have abused huge amounts of taxpayers' money, with the National Natural Science Foundation accused of improperly using public funds of up to 2 billion yuan ($323.6 million). In a separate audit, the office also found that some companies illegally obtained State energy-saving subsidies totalling 1.62 billion yuan in 2011 and 2012.

As similar cases have been found in each annual audit since 2003, clearly the management of public funds remains too loose and the punishments remain too lenient to act as deterrents.

In 2003, when the authorities decided to disclose information regarding the use of public funds, the move was hailed as a significant step forward in building an accountable government.

Now the repeated violations of fiscal rules show that we are still far away from meeting that target, a failure that will lead to serious problems, such as dented public confidence in the government and lack of trust in the government's overall policymaking.

To avoid these problems, policymakers should not stop at uncovering problems, they also need devise effective policies to prevent fiscal irregularities.

The auditing authorities said the names of those responsible for serious fraud have been given to judicial departments for investigation. But such a practice in previous years has clearly failed to root out the cancer of the abuse of public funds.

More high-level officials must be held accountable for fraud. So far, few heads of government departments have been punished after their departments were found to have misused public funds.

The budget details of the government departments and public institutions, meanwhile, must be fully disclosed to facilitate public supervision over the use of taxpayers' money.

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