GUANGZHOU - Discipline inspection authorities in this capital city of Guangdong province will watch closely for improper use of government cars during the upcoming Tomb Sweeping Day.
A recent local TV report suggested some officials used government cars to pay respects to their ancestors over the weekend ahead of the traditional Tomb Sweeping Day, or Qingming Festival, which falls on April 5 this year.
Several government cars were found parked near the Yinhe Cemetery on Sunday, according to the report.
"So far, we have not received public complaints. But the TV news about using government cars in the tomb sweeping period has prompted us to pay close attention to such violations," said Wu Gaofeng, a spokesman for the Guangzhou discipline inspection committee.
Local authorities will issue notices regulating the use of government vehicles during the upcoming festival, according to Wu.
"Officials should be well aware that they must not use official cars for private use, especially during traditional Chinese festivals," Wu told China Daily.
The discipline inspection authority will welcome public reports of government cars used for non-official duties during the festival, Wu said.
Wang Zechu, a Guangdong government adviser, criticized the use of government cars on special Chinese occasions such as Tomb Sweeping Day.
"Officials should not be driving government cars to do tomb sweeping. They will damage their moral images if their ancestors find out about their behavior," Wang said.
Wu added that new regulations for charging officials using government cars and installing global positioning systems (GPS) to monitor private purposes are being considered.
"We are still seeking opinions from the public on plans to regulate the use of government cars," Wu said.
Su Zhijia, deputy Party chief of Guangzhou, told deputies of the Guangzhou People's Congress and members of the Guangzhou Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in early March that later this year officials will be forced to pay when they want to use government cars for private purposes.
The price charged in such circumstances is expected to be between 1.5 yuan (23 cents) and 1.7 yuan a kilometer, below the 2.6 yuan a kilometer charged by local taxis, according to the draft regulation.
Moreover, by June government cars in the city will be monitored after being equipped with GPS devices, according to Su, who is also head of the city's discipline inspection authority.
After the regulation takes effect later this year, Guangzhou, which has about 30,000 registered government cars, is expected to become the first city in the province to install GPS devices on all government cars and to ask officials to pay for the use of government cars for private purposes.
Sources with the Guangzhou bureau of finance said that the government spends about 35,000 yuan a year on each government car, paying for parking fees, tolls, gasoline and similar expenses.
"The regulations for charging officials using government cars for private purposes and installation of GPS devices should be implemented as soon as possible," added the Guangdong government adviser Wang.