Another Form of Corruption: Government Purchases

By Tang Xiangyang
Published: 2010-12-30

China's central government has repeatedly targeted various forms of corruption. However, corruption has not been eliminated and it still exists in different forms.

Recently, several local governments were exposed to have purchased excessively luxurious "work equipment".

On December 15, internet users exposed the purchase of seven iPods by the financial bureau of Fushun City of Liaoning Province who stated that the iPods were to be used as USB flash drives. However, in fact, the iPod does not have this function.

On December 28, media outlets reported that the People's Court of the Shuimogou District in Wulumuqi City of Xinjiang Province purchased two luxurious electric massage chairs at the price of 52,800 yuan per unit. The publicity department of Shuimogou District explained that the massage chairs were "for the convenience of the senior workers of the court."

Wang Yukai, general secretary of the China System Reform Research Association, said to a reporter from the Beijing News yesterday that the frequent occurrence of unreasonable government purchases was a result of loose supervision and an ineffective legal framework. He also warned against the possibilities of corruption behind the purchases.

Aside from the two cases above, in late December, the media revealed that the public security bureau of Heilongjiang Province had purchased a notebook computer for the price of 41,000 yuan. This action has been widely criticized not only because it is not necessary for governmental agencies to buy such a luxurious computer, but because the high price has obviously exceeded the average market price of a personal computer.

The last example is the traffic and patrol department of the Suzhou police bureau whose purchase of 21 iPhone 4s to use as a video monitoring system has also been scrutinized by netizens.

Wang said there are two kinds of government purchases in China. The first one is purchases made by governmental agencies of products listed in a designated catalogue where items are sold for prices lower than their average market value. The products listed should be energy-saving and environment-friendly.

The second kind of government purchases is conducted by individual governmental agencies themselves. Those cover specialized products that cannot be contained in a general catalogue. The products purchased by the above four local governmental agencies are not included in the catalogue.

As out-of-catalogue purchases are not so strictly supervised, it is easy for local officials to form a "chain of interests" with certain product providers by receiving bribes or kickbacks.

Currently, the financial bureau of Fushun City and the public security bureau of Heilongjiang Province have stopped their purchasing plans. However, without a legal framework to prevent such an "chain of interests", similar stories will still occur. 

This article was edited by Rose Scobie

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