China's auditing watchdog opens to scrutiny

Updated: 2006-10-12 14:09

BEIJING -- China's audit authority -- which has achieved popular acclaim for its exposure of corruption, malpractice and misspent public funds -- is opening itself to scrutiny by other government departments to fight corruption in its own ranks.

A joint team of officials from government agencies of finance and supervision is scheduled to start annual inspections of auditing departments.

The plan was announced by Liu Jiayi, deputy auditor-general of the National Audit Office (NAO), at an inner meeting on "enhancing the construction of the audit institutions".

Financial income and expenditure, the use of special funds and work performance of audit departments will be subject to the external inspections.

Results of the inspections would be published, said sources at the NAO.

The NAO has published audit reports on government departments over the past three years, accusing them of malpractice such as misappropriation of funds, a move welcomed by the people as "an auditing storm".

But the audit offices themselves receive no outside scrutiny as local offices are only under the supervision of their superiors. The NAO received 440 complaints on "discipline violation" of audit offices and officials from January 2005 to August this year.

The invitation to outside inspectors was accelerated by the sudden death of a 25-year-old auditor Zhang Hongtao, who apparently ate and drank himself to death at a banquet organized by a government department he was auditing in April.

Before the external inspection system is installed, the NAO has ordered its provincial subordinates to begin self-examination and will send inspection teams to check local auditing offices from November.

"The current audit system is still vulnerable to many problems, especially corruption," said NAO auditor-general Li Jinhua. "External supervision can be much more efficient in curbing corruption than internal supervision only."

In an interview on China Central Television last month, Li said, "We auditors supervise others, so why shouldn't others supervise us?"

The Ministry of Supervision and Ministry of Finance will begin training personnel for the task once government ratifies the NAO plan.