A former Bank of Communications deputy governor, Lu Jiashan, was sentenced to three years' jail by a Shanghai court on Wednesday for accepting bribes to help clients secure loans. A day before, mainland securities bodies fined three companies for illegally subscribing to a mutual fund, criticised 13 brokerages for failing to prevent the malpractice, and suspended six listed companies temporarily following volatile price movements. Two weeks ago, the heads of eight bank branches were punished for financial irregularities. On the same day, the Shenzhen branch of the State Administration of Exchange Control and police arrested 32 people for illegal foreign exchange activities. Financial newspapers gave the incidents extensive play, reflecting Beijing's concern and determination to crack down on financial misdemeanours. Although shielded from the financial hurricane savaging much of Asia by the non-convertibility of its currency, the mainland banking system shares many of the woes bugging its neighbours. Beijing has concluded that a financial implosion - if it comes about - can only be triggered by systemic weaknesses and domestic scandals, and has embarked on a campaign to strengthen its regulatory functions and clean up the trouble-ridden banking sector and stock markets. The People's Bank of China (PBOC) - the central bank - this week released rules detailing penalties for financial institution officials found guilty of engaging in irregular practices. Enforcing laws and monitoring financial activities has never been easy, even in developed countries, let alone in a nation as big as the mainland, where the task is made more difficult by a weak institutional framework and poor technology. Beijing has acknowledged the weaknesses of its banking system, suggesting a political resolve to overhaul its banks. The sooner the problems are dealt with, the safer the financial system will be. The PBOC is consolidating regulatory control by modelling its structure along the lines of the US Federal Reserve Board in a move to stop regional government interference in banks. The PBOC has about 2,500 branches and 150,000 employees. Organisational restructuring will involve cutting staff and branches, a task which, though tricky, is not as tough as those faced by the four state banks. The Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Construction Bank have a total of 150,000 branches and 1.6 million employees. None of the four can claim to have a fully computerised network linking branches across the country, rendering supervision by their headquarters and the PBOC ineffective. Some branches are in remote villages where local politicians have effective control. It is often said that in such branches greedy bank officials and politicians can take advantage of supervisory weaknesses to line their pockets. Huge investments in computers to link up all the banks, and the setting up of clear reporting lines at the four banks, are necessary before the PBOC can dream of doing a good job of supervision and regulation.