Delegates from the People's Liberation Army are urging officials to implement a constant audit of this year's military budget, which increased by 12.7 per cent over last year.
The proper spending of the defence budget has become a big topic among PLA deputies at the National People's Congress in Beijing, with some emphasising the importance of a comprehensive audit to root out military commanders involved in misappropriating funds, arbitrarily changing drill expenditures, unreasonable overspending as well as illegal construction and real estate development projects.
'More money is a good thing, but the most important thing is how to use the money properly and let our people rest assured,' Lieutenant General Pei Huailiang , former president of the National Defence University, had told an NPC panel meeting on Tuesday in Beijing, the PLA Daily reported.
Pei suggested the PLA get rid of the top officers' illogical practice of fighting for benefits only for their own group and be more aware of other departments' needs. 'We should try our best to make sure the money will be well spent, which aims at improving our army's combat effectiveness,' he was cited as saying.
Another PLA deputy, Lieutenant General Chen Zhangyuan, suggested the army become more 'diligent and thrifty' and agreed that constant auditing was necessary.
The army's top brass - the Central Military Commission - started a five-year audit of all expenses concerning military drills and other related construction projects in the army in May.
A Shanghai-based PLA senior colonel said that military drills, which involved procurement and logistics functions, had become a hotbed for corruption.
'All military funding is directly allocated by the CMC to the four headquarters, with a great of amount being manipulated or misappropriated, especially in the General Logistic and General Armament Departments,' said the senior colonel, who refused to be named. 'Sometimes how much the front-line troops would receive depended only on the top leaders' moods.
'I witnessed a leader in General Logistics telling a lieutenant commander who asked him for funding: 'The more you drink, the more money you'll get, with each cup [of white liquor] counting 10,000 yuan (HK$11,850)'. As a result, the commander drank 50 cups. He got 500,000 yuan.'
Antony Wong Dong, president of the International Military Association in Macau, said that the lack of checks and balances in the PLA's expenditures should be blamed for the current situation.
'The PLA is an absolute independent kingdom, as even the National Audit Office isn't allowed to check its ledgers. So far the only auditing team is the one sent by its four headquarters to check their own budgets,' Wong said.
The self-auditing system has uncovered some problems, however.
The auditing programme that checked nearly 10,000 military officials in 126,700 units from 2006 to last year found nearly 2.8 billion yuan of inappropriate funding on construction projects, and 1.5 billion yuan was overspent on purchasing equipment, according to an earlier Xinhua report. Beijing never releases raw yuan figures for defence spending, just percentages.
In audit crosshairs
PLA deputies to the NPC want a constant audit of military spending
A PLA audit from 2006 to last year found inappropriate spending on construction projects totalling, in yuan: 2.8b yuan