A top graft-buster yesterday rejected allegations official corruption had worsened despite a high-profile anti-corruption campaign in the past few years, and instead claimed major cases had been dropping since 1998. Wei Jianxing, secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said despite the recent exposure of some major graft cases, including ones that involved officials as senior as ministers and provincial leaders, rampant corruption among officials had been reduced since 1998 after President Jiang Zemin ordered a crackdown. Senior officials including former Yunnan governor Li Jiating, former vice-minister of Public Security Li Jizhou and former Shenyang mayor Mu Suixin were charged with graft or sentenced last year for corruption. 'Graft cases in construction and financial sectors are decreasing,' Mr Wei told Heilongjiang provincial delegates at the NPC during a group discussion. 'Letters protesting about corrupt officials and tipping us off about corruption scandals have declined since 1999,' he told them. Most of the corruption cases investigated in the past few years were regarding crimes allegedly committed by cadres and officials from 1993-1997. 'The decline in graft abuses shows that our anti-graft measures, including severing ties between the armed police force, the military, law enforcement units, party and government bodies [and] businesses [they formerly controlled], have had some impact on undermining corrupt practices,' Mr Wei said. He said a new regulation which requires government at or above county level to set up separate accounts to deal with administrative fees and fines had helped improve financial management at the grassroots level, which in turn could reduce embezzlement abuses. He said central authorities would push for administrative reforms to enhance transparency in decision-making. Officials were also being recruited through an increasingly competitive system to avoid incompetent cadres buying promotions through bribing senior staff, Mr Wei said. However, outspoken scholar Hu Angang, of the Beijing-based China Situation Research Centre, said he would be cautious in commenting that graft was decreasing. According to a study by his centre, corruption in public bodies for the last three years had cost the Government 1.3 trillion yuan (HK$1.22 trillion). The amount of money involved indicated corruption was not just down to individuals but was systematic, and therefore would be difficult to root out. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection handled 174,633 graft cases last year. The figures represented almost a 30 per cent increase over the previous year. Earlier state media reports said 136,161 officials had been punished for graft, bribery or misconduct in 2000.