Two top officials at green watchdog accused of graft

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 November, 2008, 12:00am

The top environmental watchdog has been hit by graft scandals, with at least two senior officials accused of taking bribes, state media reports.

The investigation into bribery allegations at the Ministry of Environmental Protection has shed light on how the ministry has been tainted and how its new power of 'green approval', which big infrastructure projects must obtain, was abused.

Li Jianxin - former personnel chief at the State Environmental Protection Administration, which was elevated into a full ministry early this year - will soon be charged with corruption, Caijing Magazine reported.

Another senior official, Wang Panpu , who is known for his close ties with deputy environmental minister Pan Yue, has been placed under shuanggui, a form of Communist Party detention and investigation, last month.

Both officials allegedly took bribes in exchange for help in acquiring the mandatory environmental impact assessment approval.

Ministry officials declined to comment yesterday. Since the National Environmental Assessment Law in 2003, the assessments have been seen as an effective way to empower the watchdog to halt polluting projects and tackle local protectionism and powerful ministries.

But a review of the law's implementation by the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, expressed disappointment last month at authorities' failure to live up to public expectations.

Mistakes and irregularities have been found, as many assessment agencies closely connected with green authorities were allowed to profit from the approval process, the NPC review said. Complaints about the poor quality of environmental impact assessments have surged this year, it said.

The number of public requests for government reviews of environmental disputes soared by 170 per cent in the first nine months of the year compared with the same period in 2006. More than half related to dissatisfaction with environmental approval.

The corruption probe is jointly conducted by several party and central government anti-graft bodies, including the Central Discipline Inspection Commission and the Ministry of Supervision.

Wang is the general secretary of the China Environmental Culture Promotion Association and is second only to Mr Pan, who heads the ministry-owned organisation.

It is well known for its government connections, sponsoring the Green People of the Year Awards and funding other environmental NGOs.

Wang is a journalist with extensive experience in mainland media who work under Mr Pan when the latter was deputy director of the state-owned assets administration authority in the 1990s.

Speculation has been rife about Mr Pan's possible involvement in Wang's corruption case. Ministry sources said the outspoken Mr Pan had kept a low profile recently.