Auditor to investigate the funding of rural schools
Rural school spending would be one of the National Audit Office's top three priorities this year, the agency said, following an outcry over a raft of deadly school bus accidents that have been blamed on a centralisation push.
The office's auditor general, Liu Jiayi, also said at a national audit conference on Sunday that his agency would seek out irregularities in the social security fund and in government spending on subsidised housing projects.
The office said it was able to help recoup or save 100 billion yuan (HK$122.23 billion) through its audit of 120,000 government agencies and 26,000 government officials between January and November last year.
Liu said his office would conduct a survey on the restructuring of rural schools, which have seen mass closures in the past decade amid rapid urbanisation that has led to dwindling enrolment.
Based on the survey, he said, the audit office would also look into whether special government funds for the restructuring of rural schools had been spent in accordance with official policies.
The central government provided one billion yuan for rural school centralisation programmes in 2003 alone, and it has spent billions on upgrades at centralised township- and county-level schools in recent years.
The government-sanctioned closures of village schools have been widely considered justified because of the provision of better education. But a string of school bus accidents has led to questions over the distribution and efficiency of government funding at centralised rural schools.
In an expose by China Central Television last week, Jieshou school authorities in Anhui province were found to have swindled 10.63 million yuan in government subsidies for pupils by inflating enrolment at rural schools.
Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said such public funding abuse was not isolated, as a flawed funding scheme gave regional governments unfettered power in distributing central funds.