... .. opinion


Greater transparency during the auditing process will not only add to the National Audit Office's reputation, but also encourage better behaviour from those overseeing the management of State assets.

This was laid out in a new five-year working plan for the National Audit Office (NAO) released last Friday, which defined the priorities for its auditing practices between 2003 and 2007.

The auditing authority vowed to increase the transparency of its investigative reports to the public unless they are concerning State secrets, confidential business matters and other content which is unsuitable for publishing.

The plan sends a clear signal to all concerned parties that the country's financial watchdog will assume its role in a more aggressive way.

Late last month, the NAO issued a scathing report on the use of 2002 budget funds.

That report exposed serious problems ranging from the Ministry of Finance's recent mishandling of pension funds to fake loans granted by dozens of local branches of the China Construction Bank.

Such straightforward criticism has won plaudits for the NAO for its responsible monitoring of State assets.

With a determination to draw attention to wrongdoing by government departments, financial institutions and enterprises, the NAO is expected to play a more effective role in checking on various forms of financial irregularities.

In fact, the country's ongoing reform of State-owned assets management has also made it necessary to focus more auditing efforts on uncovering losses on those assets due to poor management.

The total volume of China's State-owned assets had topped 11 trillion yuan (about US$1.33 trillion) by the end of 2002. Raising the returns on State assets is a major component of the country's economic reform plans.

Through trial and error, the management and reorganization of State firms will undergo many changes that will pose challenges for the NAO.

The onus will then be on the NAO to uncover mistakes committed by institutions or businesses at fault. By putting them under public pressure, such early disclosure will force wrongdoers to mend their ways immediately, thus minimizing losses and winning back public confidence.

It will also serve as an important warning for others not to repeat those mistakes in the future.

(China Daily 07/08/2003 page4)


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