Bean counters have PLA brass in sights
A high-profile special team is to audit all the expenses of military drills in the People's Liberation Army from this month, in a move to weed out rampant corruption inside the army.
The team - which answers directly to President Hu Jintao and the PLA's supreme command body, the Central Military Commission - would first focus on the costs of all drills carried by regiment commanders or higher level leaders in the land, naval and air forces since 2006, the PLA Daily said.
The audit aims to root out military commanders involved in misappropriating funds, arbitrarily changing drill expenditures, unreasonable overspending as well as being involved in illegal construction and real estate development projects, the report said.
Commanders found to be involved in illegal operations would be given disciplinary sanctions in accordance with CMC regulations, Major General Li Qinghe , auditor general of the special team, said.
'Besides general audits on site, individual discussions, on-site inspections and forums, our special team will also invite at least 80 per cent of ordinary PLA cadres from the unit being audited to join in a secret assessment of their superior officers,' Li was quoted as saying.
'Commanders need at least 85 per cent approval ratings from their subordinates or they will fail the assessment.'
The special team also welcomes public participation, setting up complaint hotlines, special mail boxes and e-mail addresses, the PLA Daily said.
The involvement of military secrets prevents the National Audit Office checking the army's ledgers, so to respond to the public outcry against corruption in the army, a team comprising nearly 1,000 auditing experts from the PLA's four general headquarters was founded on July 20 last year by the CMC's directive and approved by Hu, the commission chairman.
The purpose is greater oversight of military leaders' economic decisions and grant funding.
After focusing on the 2006-10 period, the team will later check annual military budgets, key construction projects, procurement of equipment materials, property development projects, compensable services and other economic activities budgeted for the next five years, Xinhua said.
A Shanghai-based retired PLA senior colonel said the audit was also in response to anger expressed by soldiers over big-spending on military drills when they receive low pay for participating in earthquake and other relief missions.
'But the front-line forces, who are responsible for all the dirty jobs, share a very limited budget, while regiment commanders get big money from the drills they design and also claim payment for their entertainment activities like extravagant eating and drinking,' he said.
For example, he said it was common for political commissars, who are the top leaders in a command unit, to take kickbacks from construction brigades after awarding them construction projects involved in military drills.
'I hope the special auditing team will also prevent those corrupt senior commanders from taking part in such economic projects,' the retired senior colonel said.
Xu Guangyu, a Beijing-based retired PLA major general, said military drills were a key armed forces expenditure, behind wages and weapons purchases.
'About one-tenth of our military budget is spent in drills, which is a necessary operation during peace time,' Xu said.
'But military drills, which involve procurement and logistics functions in the army, have become a hot bed of corruption. That's why President Hu vowed to stamp it out when he took over as chairman of the CMC in 2004.'
Hu ordered a five-year audit against more than 4,000 military officials, including 100 senior officers.