Anti-graft figures 'all too familiar'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 January, 2010, 12:00am

The central government's disciplinary toll for last year appears to make grim reading, with more than 100,000 officials penalised and 4.44 billion yuan (HK$4.99 billion) of public money being stopped from flowing into cadres' pockets.

While Beijing insists this showed progress in the fight against rampant graft, a respected expert said the consistent number of officials involved was a sign that only radical reform of the anti-graft system could put a dent in the problem.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Ministry of Supervision - the respective party and government anti-graft bodies - revealed the statistics at their annual press conference yesterday. Gan Yisheng , the commission's deputy secretary general, said the campaign against corruption was stepped up last year and methodology improved, which 'strengthened the people's trust in the party and the government'.

He said more than 100,000 officials were penalised for breaching party discipline, which includes everything from keeping a mistress to dereliction of duty and taking bribes. As a result, losses of 4.44 billion yuan from the state purse were prevented.

Gan said the number of public reports on corruption was up 4.7 per cent year on year, and the number of cases passed on for further investigation, 115,420, was up 4.5 per cent.

Professor Ren Jianming, an expert from Tsinghua University, said the increase in the number of officials disciplined could be the result of increased efforts to catch them - or a sign that the corruption pandemic has continued to spread throughout officialdom.

The number of officials disciplined for misdeeds in recent years has consistently hovered around the 100,000 mark, Ren said, which suggested the crackdown results may not tell the whole story.

'We really need to sit down and look at the causes of unrelenting corruption,' he said. 'I believe the answer lies in the creation of an independent institution ... like the Independent Commission Against Corruption in Hong Kong.'

In addition to the two bodies present at yesterday's press conference, the newly established National Bureau of Corruption Prevention and the Anti-Corruption Bureau under the Supreme People's Procuratorate are charged with guarding against graft.

However, Ren said the quartet would never make much headway without more serious reform.

'Our political reality might not allow [the creation of an independent body] yet, but it is the only way to go. Otherwise, year after year, we will just be looking at another 100,000 figure and asking ourselves what it means.'

Last year's anti-graft work was expanded to areas including environmental protection, funds used in disaster relief, and government misdeeds that led to mass protests.