200m yuan from quake funds found misused

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 September, 2009, 12:00am

State auditors have uncovered 200 million yuan (HK$227 million) either in embezzled funds or untruthful claims over how money was used after one trillion yuan had been earmarked to rebuild cities and towns destroyed in the Sichuan earthquake in May last year.

The National Audit Office said it had found no major financial irregularity or fraud, but did find some 'inappropriate' spending in some projects, as it released its first report on 76 reconstruction projects yesterday after an in-depth investigation that lasted from January to May. The audit covered 3,872 projects totalling 135.2 billion yuan, including 76 reconstruction projects.

It had sent 4,500 staff members from bureaus in 23 provinces and municipalities to the quake-hit areas of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu to reassure the public that Beijing was monitoring the use of the funds and would punish whoever was caught abusing the money.

Auditors found that about 26 million yuan assigned for reconstruction had been used by officials for other purposes on five occasions.

That included 16 million yuan assigned for repairing and consolidating farmhouses in Cheng and Kang counties in Gansu, which was found to have been used for other public projects.

About 8.5 million yuan reserved for home reconstruction in Wudu district of Gannan , Gansu, had been instead used to fund the local development and reform commission, the report said. Another 1.5 million yuan was improperly used in Sichuan by authorities in charge of a tourist attraction in Jianmen county and a flood-control project in Guangyuan .

Aside from that, the agency also accused authorities who were responsible for eight rebuilding projects of incorrectly reporting the funds needed.

About 15.5 million yuan was returned to the state coffers after the watchdog had found that officials in An county, Sichuan, had 'severely overstated' the amount of money needed for the construction of a flood-control facility that had been destroyed by the 8-magnitude quake, the report said.

Zhongjiang county, Sichuan, was found to have used money mistakenly sent twice for the reconstruction of two provincial-level highways. The excess figure was 184 million yuan.

Of the 1 trillion yuan the central government earmarked for reconstruction, 300 billion yuan came from the state coffer and 70 billion from prosperous coastal cities or provinces.

The rest of the fund came from regional administrations hit by the tremor, financial loans and donations from enterprises and individuals from home or abroad.

Another audit report released on January 1 said 162 people suspected of corruption, bribe-taking or abuse of power for personal gain in connection with the allocation of disaster-relief funds had been detained and their cases transferred to judicial departments.