Officials fired for incompetence
( 2004-01-13 22:37) (China Daily)
Two leaders of local water facilities in Northwest China have been fired for cutting off the drinking water supply for 400,000 local people in November.
The actions of the two, described as bureaucratic incompetence, occurred when debts of between State-run drinking water facilities and the electricity bureau of Dali County in the city of Weinan in Shaanxi Province went into default and the water supply was callously shut down, Weinan municipal government officials said.
Dismissed were Qin Yongshou, director of the rural water supply office of Dali County, and Zhang Zhengmin, manager of the county's water plant. The water plant is an enterprise that falls under the administration of the water supply office.
Founded in 1985 amid the programme to supply clean drinking water to local villagers, the rural water supply office was designed to supply drinking water to half of the population of the county, including people in the county seat and 18 of the county's 33 towns.
The rural water supply office runs the largest potable drinking water source in the county.
The county's water plant is the largest one among 14 water supply stations that formed the office's water supply network. The plant is mainly responsible for supplying drinking water for 60,000 people in the county seat, and its supply accounts for 45 per cent of the total capacity for the county.
According to Guan Kuanmin, deputy director of the rural water supply office, the water plant owed accumulative debts of 280,000 yuan (US$34,000) to the office, and the office itself owed 240,000 yuan (US$29,000) to the power supply company managed by the electricity bureau.
Known as "triangle debts," it used to be a common practice for Chinese State-run enterprises to owe each other money in doing business. The Chinese Government made a series of efforts to solve the debt-chain problem in 1990s.
As a result, the power supply company, run by the electricity bureau, discontinued power supply to the rural water supply office and its water networks. Power cutoff led to water cutoff between November 15 and 19 in the county seat and 18 towns, affecting 400,000 people.
Residents and villagers had to buy water from neighborhoods where there were wells. To save money, some villagers had to do cooking by using creek water from local streams.
Wu Jincai, a county local, angrily told Xinhua at the time: "We pay our water bills on time. Why stop our water supply? The disputes between the three parties have nothing to do with us."
Officials with the rural water supply office said they were unable to pay back money they owed to the power supply company because the subordinated water plant refused to pay money to them.
The water plant argued that it was in financial difficulties. It took out loans from the Weinan branch of the China Construction Bank to upgrade its water supply networks in the county seat amid a renovation programme to rebuild.
The plant was still in arrears of 300,000 yuan (US$36,000) to the bank, which later filed a lawsuit against the plant and the court ordered to freeze its accounts. In addition, many water users defaulted on their water bills and therefore the plant was financially incapable of paying off the debts, according to plant officials.
The power company held that in a market economy, electricity is a kind of commodity for sale. It notified the rural water supply office many times to pay back the 240,000 yuan it owed. The plant simply did not respond.
The power company said, according to relevant State regulations concerning electricity supplies, it was entitled to cut off power supplies if a user failed to pay power fees for one month.
"The power company is an enterprise. It has to survive, and so it has no other way but stopping supply," a power company official said.
People's anger aroused the attention of media and consequently the upper Weinan government,stepped in and initiated an investigation.
The government decided to dismiss the two leaders afterward, saying it was a negative case that hurt people's "fundamental interests" because of bureaucratic stupidity.
Meanwhile, the government gave a "warning" punishment to Zhang Fulai, deputy director of the county's electricity bureau, and ordered a written self-criticism be made by both Zhou Runde, director of the county's water resources bureau, and Yang Jianzhong, director of the electricity bureau.
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