US university blamed for officials' study scam

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 December, 2008, 12:00am


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The central government has suspended all training programmes organised by Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) in the United States for Chinese civil servants and accused it of teaming up with mainland officials to cheat the government out of study subsidies, The Beijing News reported.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said the American university provided false information to relevant mainland authorities to help 23 officials in Wenzhou , Zhejiang , claim study subsidies.

The officials applied for a three-week study programme at NPU. When the relevant authorities asked the university for information, it sent invitation letters and provided detailed information on the course.

The 23 officials were granted 600,000 yuan (HK$676,200) for the study programme. But once they arrived in the US in February, they changed their itinerary and went to Las Vegas and Disneyland instead.

They eventually spent only three days at NPU, the newspaper said.

The story was widely reported by mainland media and caused a public uproar. The ministry subsequently ordered an investigation and blamed the university yesterday.

Just last week China Central Television blasted officials for wasting public money on overseas tours and expensive meals.

Many such tours were organised under the name of study tours but turned out to be purely for personal pleasure. The CCTV report said officials claimed more than 900 billion yuan of expenses a year on such tours. The 23 Wenzhou officials are under investigation, but so far only two have received warnings for wasting public money.

The university could not be reached for comment yesterday. It was not clear if the university had received any money from the officials.

The case was revealed by an unnamed person who posted all the spending claims filed by the 23 officials online. It was quickly picked up by mainland newspapers.

The public was particularly angry as only the head of the study tour, Xu Youping , who is also deputy party secretary of the city's disciplinary committee, and another official were disciplined. The person who posted the information online claimed he found it in a bag left in a Shanghai subway station. He also claimed he had information about two other bogus study tours involving several local senior officials.

In one case, 11 officials from Xinyu, in Jiangxi province were said to have spent 350,000 yuan on a 13-day trip to the US and Canada under the excuse of overseas study.

The person claimed all officials had been subsequently punished, with two sacked and another suspended from duty.

Many mainland media reported his postings. The government did not confirm or deny the reports.

Beijing-based political commentator Hu Xingdou said a lack of checks and balances was to blame for the rampant waste of public money.

'Wasting public money is very common among local governments, especially in costal cities where the economic growth is fast,' he said.

'The officials have absolute power to decide how to spend public money, and they have got loads of cash on hand.'

Big spenders

According to a CCTV report, the amount of expenses claimed by government officials each year is, in yuan: 900b