Congress stands up to officials

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 February, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 February, 1999, 12:00am

Lawmakers in Henan province have taken the unprecedented step of rejecting a reply from the provincial Government over accusations that officials siphoned funds from housing programmes and failed to issue home-owners' permits.

Twenty-three members of the Henan People's Congress submitted a motion demanding that the Government explain why it had failed to issue owners' permits years after collecting payments from buyers.

The motion was presented by its co-sponsor, Professor Shou Nanchun of Zhengzhou Industrial University, on Thursday. The Presidium of Henan People's Congress accepted it.

When officials from the provincial Construction Bureau gave their reply on Friday, congress members were not satisfied. The presidium demanded that the bureau go before the members again.

Congress chairman Ren Keli hailed the move as 'a step forward' in Henan's process of democratisation and legal development.

Xinhua said it was the first time the provincial people's congress in Henan had exercised the power to summon government officials to account for their actions and explain policies.

Congress members were unhappy with replies by the officials because they were ambiguous and avoided the issues, the news agency said.

Congress members were concerned that local residents who bought houses built by the Government were often required to pay up quickly. But officials were frequently slow in issuing permits. Suspicion was raised that funds earmarked for building projects could have been diverted for other uses by officials.

Traditionally, people's congresses rubber-stamp all government decisions and rarely challenge actions.