Prominent government-funded science and technology programmes, including a project approved by Deng Xiaoping, have become the latest target of the National Audit Office. The 7 billion yuan worth of projects audited include the '863 programme' and '973 programme', both organised and implemented by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the China News Service reported yesterday. The state auditor has uncovered a number of scandals relating to misappropriated funds while assessing the finances of government bodies and state-owned enterprises. The 863 programme, also known as the High Tech Research and Development Programme, was approved by Deng in March 1986 as an attempt to close the technology gap between China and the developed countries. It comprises projects in eight major hi-tech areas, including biotechnology and information technology. The 973 programme, which is also known as the National Basic Research Programme, was approved in June 1997. It focuses on basic research to meet the country's major strategic needs. The science programmes under audit cover seven areas, include more than 1,000 sub-projects and involve over 700 units in more than 30 provinces, autonomous regions or municipalities. Apart from scrutinising the usage of about 7 billion yuan budgeted funds, the auditors will also assess the programmes' economic and social efficiency, as well as evaluate the internal governance of units responsible for the programmes. In addition, the auditors are exploring the establishment of a system to monitor spending on scientific research. The audit exercise is expected to end in October.