State agencies reveal spending
A central government official may easily spend more than his annual salary on business trips and official banquets, according to figures released by several ministries yesterday.
The revelation came as nearly 100 central government agencies began to release records of their public expenses from last year on official receptions, overseas trips and cars - commonly known as the 'three public consumptions'.
By yesterday, nine agencies had disclosed their records, including the State Council's Office of South-North Water Diversion, the Ministry of Land and Resources and the Xinhua news agency.
The South-North Water Diversion Office said it spent an average of 56,300 yuan (HK$68,500) per person per overseas trip, and 63,000 yuan per government vehicle, last year. However, the office did not reveal how much it spent per official on receptions, which are widely known for being extravagant, as they have featured pricey shark-fin soup and expensive mao-tai liquor.
Officially, a junior ministry official can earn 3,000 yuan a month, while a top minister gets 10,000 yuan a month.
The mandatory disclosure to the public of these specific records comes as part of a broader crackdown on public sector graft, which is often cited as a major source of public unhappiness with the mainland's one-party rule.
In March last year, the State Council ordered 98 ministries and ministry-level organisations to publicise their budgets and expenditures on the three items - which are the most often cited sources of corruption and wasteful spending of public funds.
This is the second year that government agencies have disclosed records for the three public consumptions. Still, there were complaints among the public that data released last year was too vague and that the information often omitted important details.
The Ministry of Land and Resources said it spent 35.36 million yuan on the three items last year - 11.4 million yuan on overseas trips, 11.77 million yuan on vehicle use and 12.19 million yuan on receptions. It also sent 233 delegations, comprising 484 officials, on overseas business trips.
Business trips have come under increasing fire for featuring too much time dedicated to sightseeing or entertainment.
The breakdown of spending on the three sensitive items comes after a broader submission to the Finance Ministry last month of comprehensive budget records from central government departments. Their spending totalled 9.34 billion yuan. Of that, 1.98 billion yuan was for overseas trips, 5.92 billion yuan went to vehicle purchases and maintenance, and receptions accounted for 1.47 billion yuan.
Last year, 199,600 government vehicles were bought or used in violation of regulations regarding the use of public funds, and 170 officials were punished, according to previously released government figures.
Additionally, in its recent annual report to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the mainland's top audit office revealed that 300 central government officials, including some department chiefs, abused funds totalling almost 4.4 billion yuan last year.
In response, the government last week issued new rules prohibiting cadres and officials from splashing out on cars, banquets and overseas junkets.
The total amount, in yuan, that the various central government departments spent last year on receptions