Opinion / Editorials

Further transparency needed

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-21 07:50

The publication of expenditures on the procurement of vehicles, receptions and overseas trips by central government departments and their local counterparts is important for people to know how public money is being used.

By the weekend, 95 central government departments had published their balance sheets for 2013, which shows that the spending in the three areas was actually 815 million yuan ($132 million) less than the budget, a saving of 10.2 percent.

Not bad.

Premier Li Keqiang's promise that expenditure in the three areas would only decrease during his term has thus far been met. And with reform of government vehicle usage to be carried out this year, this expenditure will further decrease.

However, of all the expenditure items published, "other expenditure" turns out to be conspicuous in its obscurity. It is impossible to know what that money was spent on. There is enough reason to believe that such an item is nothing but a cover for the spending that the department does not want the general public to know about.

What is even more amazing is that the spending listed under such item can be as high as one-third of the total expenditure of a department. In fact, an investigation by Renmin University of China shows that for some local governments in western China such expenditure accounted for as much as 42 percent.

The total sum of money under the item of "other spending" in the 2013 national public expenditure published by the Ministry of Finance amounts to about 1.3 trillion yuan, according to a Xinhua report. That amount was about 10 percent of the national revenue in 2013.

Such murkiness naturally reminds people of the irregularities and violations of rules by both the central and local governments, which were revealed by the annual audit report published recently.

Twenty-three central government departments used more money than stipulated for holding meetings or else listed a sum for meetings that were never held. And 34 departments have unauthorized coffers of their own, which they use to give subsidies and bonuses to their employees. Which is a kind of corruption.

It goes without saying that the government spending is much more transparent than before. But both central government departments and local governments can always find ways to get away with the irregular use of public money or other violations. The "other expenditure" is one way they cover spending that is against the rules.

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