Li Keqiang

Anti-corruption drive targets off-budget spending

Premier repeats warning that the government will lose credibility if it fails to curb graft

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 5:31am


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Premier Li Keqiang told the State Council's first meeting on fighting corruption that curbs would be gradually introduced at all levels of government to curb off-budget spending.

He did not give any timetable for the move.

Li, who was appointed head of the cabinet this month, said Chinese society was more transparent today thanks to social media and that could lead to a discontent if the government did not disclose information correctly and immediately, China News Service reported last night.

"It's better for us to release the information proactively, and tell the public the truth," Li said while mapping out major areas for this year's anti-graft policies, including the publication of government budgets.

It's better for us to release the information proactively, and tell the public the truth

Li also called for institutional prevention of corruption and said the government needed a system to supervise its power. He said spending on official hospitality would be reined in and officials would have to cut back on the number of official cars, bureaucratic meetings and reports.

Public spending on receptions, meetings, car purchases and maintenance should be open to public scrutiny, he said.

Describing the clean-up efforts as a crucial task, Li said a failure to curb and address corruption would cause the government to lose credibility and public support, Xinhua reported.

Li and President Xi Jinping warned earlier this month that a culture of corruption could threaten the legitimacy of Communist Party rule.

The party has struggled to contain public anger over an endless stream of corruption scandals in recent years, especially cases in which officials embezzle public funds to support lavish lifestyles.

Prosecutors have investigated about 13,000 officials at the county level or above for job-related crimes since 2008 and have taken about 19,000 people who offered bribes to court, according to reports adopted at the annual session of the National People's Congress early this month.

Chen Ziming, a Beijing-based political analyst, said the premier's first meeting focusing on the fight against graft was disappointing because it had not given a specific timetable for action and the wording was even softer than that of former premier Wen Jiabao in previous meetings.

He said Li did not mention a mechanism for disclosing officials' assets, which the public has called for in recent years. Wen talked about such a system many times during his tenure but failed to make it happen.

"It shows he has no confidence fighting corruption and the current anti-corruption campaign might become more empty talk," Chen said.

The State Council has held more than 10 meetings on clean governance since 2003, but corruption has only increased.