Government and Policy

Provincial govts 'not transparent'

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-06-17 08:10
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BEIJING - Provincial governments are not transparent when it comes to sharing basic information with the public, according to research released on Tuesday.

The research group, which consists of experts from the Central University of Finance and Economics (CUFE) and the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE), sent applications for information disclosure to 341 departments of 31 provincial governments, the Beijing Times reported on Wednesday.

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The team demanded provincial governments disclose 25 items of information for the year 2007, mainly regarding government finance. Their requests included departmental income, total expenditure, expenditure composition and fixed assets like cars and buildings.

A total of 109 departments formally replied, but only 18 departments unveiled part of the information.

Not a single department revealed officials' subsidy and allowance or expenses on overseas trips.

Liu Xiaobing, a professor at the School of Public Economics and Administration, SUFE, said the research team adopted a standard of marking with requirements "much lower than international standards" to evaluate the performance of the government departments, but still got "rather low scores".

According to the criterion based on provincial governments' attitudes to the research and the general level of information disclosure in a province, East China's Fujian province scored the highest (15.67 on 100), Ningxia Hui autonomous region in Northwest China came second (9.97) on the list, and Beijing third (7.27).

The departments in charge of health and transportation performed the best with regard to disclosing information, scoring 7.21 and 5.84 respectively. Departments of finance, education, environmental protection, and taxation administration followed closely, while the department of industry and commerce, local people's congress and political consultative conference scored the lowest.

"Generally speaking, regions with more developed economies have more open attitudes toward disclosing information, but according to the research, even the information that is disclosed tends to be general and vague," said Liu.

CUFE Professor Zeng Kanghua said a transparent fiscal system should be pushed forward in China to "prevent corruption".

Experts have warned that insufficient fiscal disclosure may encourage embezzlement and abuse of public funds, ill-conceived government-funded projects, extravagant government spending, graft, and power-for-money deals.

China is now revising the existing Budget Law, which came into effect in 1995, to provide a legal basis for more fiscal transparency.