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Reluctant Transparency


By Zhu Na
Jul 26, 2011


 Over the past three weeks, headlines in both the state and commercial press have been tracking the slow yet gradual release of details about how much various offices, ministries, departments, organizations and institutions that operate under the authority of China’s State Council spent on overseas trips, receptions and vehicles in 2010.

 Headlines like “90% of Central Government Departments Yet to Release Details of Public Spending,” which also featured prominently on China’s most popular web portals, began to appear in mid-July, as only a few of the 98 institutions that operate under the authority of the State Council had bothered to released details of their spending on these three items, in direct contradiction of a State Council order in early May requiring each of them to reveal such spending before the end of June this year.

 Over the following weeks, more and more institutions revealed their spending online, many of them choosing to announce details late on Friday evening (see image below).

Source: China Youth Daily

 Gradually, the percentage of departments that had revealed their spending on what the government and media have taken to calling the ”三公 sān gōng” literally the “three publics,” began to increase and according to the People’s Daily Online, as of 5pm on Jul 22, 70 of the 98 official institutions had published details of how much they spent on these items.

Over the weekend another 6 departments revealed their spending, including a rather ill-timed announcement from the Ministry of Railways late on Saturday evening and the People’s Bank of China. On Monday, 5 more departments, including the Ministry of Public Security, revealed their spending.

 Following the announcement of spending by the State Council Three Gorges Project Construction Committee Executive Office and the Ministry of Justice earlier today, as of 5pm on Jul 26, a total of 86 institutions have published their “san gong” figures

The remaining 12 central government institutions, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry State Security are still dragging their feet.

 The release of detailed figures followed a Ministry of Finance (MOF) announcement in early July on the total figure for all central government spending on the items. According to the MOF,  6.17 billion yuan was spent on vehicle purchases and maintenance, 1.77 billion yuan on overseas trips and another 1.53 billion yuan on entertaining.

 The push to have the spending figures made public is part of broader effort to counter corruption by slowly increasing oversight and supervision of powerful government departments and gradually opening up the opaque workings of party organs and government ministries.

The efforts include initiatives to reveal more details about central and local government spending and the introduction of new information disclosure regulations that came into effect in 2008. The central government has also been pushing ahead with the establishment of a list of press spokespeople for the various government and party institutions.

The requirements to publish such spending also follow moves aimed at reining in unnecessary overseas travel that was launched by the newly inaugurated National Corruption Prevention Bureau in 2008.

The Ministry of Science and Technology (科技部) was the first central government ministry to reveal spending when it posted details to the department’s website on Apr 14 announcing that a total of 40.2 million yuan was spent on official cars, overseas travel and entertaining in 2010.

 The Ministry of Science and Technology was the only government department that made the State Council’s “before the end of June” deadline.

 Indeed, up until July 14, two weeks after the deadline had passed, less that 20 central departments had released details of their spending.

 According to the details released so far, the top three ministries in term of overall expenditure on these items in 2010 are the State Administration of Taxation (国家税务总局), which spent a whopping 2.16 billion yuan, the General Administration of Customs (海关总署) which spent around 500 million yuan, most of which was on the official car pool and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (质量监督检验检疫总局) which spent close to 420 million yuan.

 As of Jul 25, the State Bureau for Letters and Calls (国家信访局), the government department that handles complaints from petitioners, had spent the least of all the institutions that have released details, with a total bill of 980,000 yuan in 2010.

 The Black List:

 The following departments are yet to release details of their “san gong” spending:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs 外交部
Ministry of States Security 国家安全部
National Bureau of Corruption Prevention of China 国务预防腐败局
Government Offices Administration of the State Council 国务院机关事务管理局国务院预防腐败局
Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council 国务院侨务办
Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council 国务院港澳事务办 
Taiwan Affairs Office 国务院台办
State Tobacco Monopoly Administration 国家烟草专卖局
State Administration of Coal Mine Safety 国家煤矿安全监察局 
National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets 国家保密局 
State Cryptography Administration 国家密码管理局 
State Language Commission 国家语言文字工作委

 Links and Sources

People's Daily: Updated List of Total Spending from All Departments

People's Daily: Older List that can be Sorted According to Amount Spent

 China Internet Information Center: Gov\'t missed aim of budget release

Want China Times: Beijing reveals expenditure on trips, cars and banquets

China Media Project: Image


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