Spending on perks defies cuts call

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 July, 2012, 12:00am

Despite efforts by the top leadership in Beijing to reduce spending on official receptions, overseas trips and limousines in the face of widespread public anger, the Ministry of Public Security has still budgeted nearly 40 per cent more for banquets, trips and cars this year.

At the same time the State Electricity Regulatory Commission said it spent 133,500 yuan (HK$164,000) on each official vehicle last year, more than the official annual income of a minister or provincial governor.

In March last year, the State Council ordered almost 100 ministries and ministry-level organisations to publicise their budgets and actual spending on receptions, overseas trips and limousines. The three items are the most often cited sources of corruption and wasteful spending of public funds. So far, more than 90 have released details of their spending on their websites. This is the second year of disclosing such records.

The State Council also ordered substantive, two-digit cuts in the budgets for the three items.

However, the Ministry of Public Security said it planned a net increase of about 50 million yuan, or 39.2 per cent, this year, to a total of 179 million yuan.

The National Development and Reform Commission, a super ministry in charge of macro-economic policy and price control, said it planned to spend 43 million yuan on the three items this year, an increase of 9 million yuan or 27 per cent from last year's actual spending.

The cost of operating and maintaining vehicles takes up the largest share of budgets for the three items and accounted for nearly 90 per cent of one central agency's 'three public consumptions' last year. The General Administration of Customs spent 500 million yuan on the three items, with vehicle use and maintenance costing 445 million yuan.

The State Administration of Work Safety said vehicle use and maintenance accounted for 80 per cent of its spending on the three items, while the Ministry of Supervision said vehicles accounted for 70 per cent of its spending on the three and the Ministry of Justice said vehicles accounted for 60 per cent in its case.

The State Administration of Taxation topped all central ministries and institutions in total spending on the three items last year, with spending of 2 billion yuan.

The mandatory public disclosure of such records is part of a broader crackdown on public sector corruption, which is often cited as a major source of public discontent with the mainland's one-party rule.

The heated online criticism directed towards the China Earthquake Administration could be a case in point. After media reports that the agency's spending on the three perks last year was 20 times its spending on earthquake forecasting, one internet user described the impact of the extravagance as like 'an earthquake'. The administration's actual spending on 'earthquake affairs' accounted for about 50 per cent, or 2.8 billion yuan, of its total expenditure.

Some critics say that actual government spending on the 'three public consumptions' is larger than stated by many government departments and public institutions because they also use revenue collected from other sources to pay for them and do not solely rely on budget appropriations.