Party secretaries face audits in pilot project

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 December, 2010, 12:00am

Beijing is planning to launch a pilot project to audit the performance of provincial Communist Party secretaries in managing public finances and economic policy, an official of the audit authority said.

Sun Baohou, chief auditor of the National Audit Office (NAO), told the government website on Tuesday that the audit would include party secretaries - the highest-ranking party official of a province, autonomous region or municipality.

Analysts said auditing provincial party secretaries would be difficult since the mechanism to do so lacks independence and transparency.

There is much to review. Sun cited a Beijing News report published on Saturday that said the NAO had uncovered 68.4 billion yuan (HK$79.79 billion) in embezzled and wasted money between 1998 and October this year following a review of more than 410,000 government, party and state-owned enterprises officials.

Ren Jianming, director of Tsinghua University's anti-corruption and governance research centre, said auditing provincial party secretaries would involve confrontations with local power and interest groups - a tricky political matter.

Professor Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University, said that such audits involved reviews of nebulous criteria such as the party chiefs' political responsibilities, or money spent on maintaining social stability. Zhang said it would be difficult to identify standards for such reviews.

Sun said 53 provincial governors and ministers had been audited since a separate pilot scheme was launched in 2000. Of that number, 37 were audited in the past two years. He did not reveal any results of the audits.

Wang Yukai, professor of the Chinese academy of governance, said that mechanisms for enforcing disclosure in the audits were insufficient.

'The problem is that there is no transparency in the auditing process,' he said. 'Many corruption cases are actually down to an abuse of power.'

Xinhua reported yesterday that Liu Zhuozhi, vice-chairman of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region government, was under investigation for alleged severe disciplinary violations, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party's anti-corruption watchdog.

Ren said the disclosure of audit results would would be a powerful tool to monitor officials' conduct, but that such disclosure would be unlikely for the foreseeable future.

There have been calls to audit these officials' personal finances as well, but Ren said that was equally unlikely.

'The senior officials' personal assets could hardly be revealed, let alone the details of thedecision-making of key policies that might involve different kinds of interest groups,' he said. Wang said the auditing had moved up to more senior officials over past years.

'It's a significant move as it could help identify small corruption problems and prevent them from becoming serious to protect state assets.

'There is no lack of policies but ensuring it's properly implemented is actually the crucial part.'