Chinese officials and delegates are braced for an intensified austerity campaign at the nation's annual plenary meetings. The media centre was the first to exhibit the efforts to ramp up the central government's fight against excess. Banners, flowers and the red carpet were all absent in the building - the setting for various ministries' press briefings for the next two weeks. "We will not use any new tablecloth this year," media centre manager Zhao Yudong told CCTV. "We will not make any new purchases until the old ones are out of service." The secretariat of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference plenary session has set up a frugality inspection team, state media reported. Delegates are encouraged to "inspect each other" by filing complaints to a "suggestion box". Hotels where delegates will hold discussions have replaced bottled water with thermos flasks and water dispensers, China National Radio reported. Last year, the bottled water had replaced labour-intensive tea ladies. The moves come after the government's "17 measures" to cut spending, introduced ahead of last year's plenum. The annual meetings gather the nation's top legislative and consultative bodies, the National People's Congress and the CPPCC. The "17 measures" included discouraging gift exchanges and barring costly cuisine and alcohol. But just how much money, if any at all, was saved? The NPC plenary session, where government departments' public expenses are discussed and approved, has yet to disclose its own budget and final accounts. Questions regarding this year's budget went unanswered. For all the latest news from China’s parliamentary sessions click here As for the CPPCC plenary session, its budget last year was 70 million yuan (HK$88 million), according to its website. This means more than 32,600 yuan was spent on each of the 2,143 delegates at the 10-day session. The CPPCC, the nation's top political advisory body, did not give a detailed breakdown of how it spent the money. Neither the final accounts of the 2014 session nor this year's budget has yet been made public. It wasn't until 2011 that the CPPCC first disclosed how much was budgeted for its annual session. Its then spokesperson Zhao Qizheng had been thrown off balance by a foreign reporter's question on its spending. "I seldom fail to answer questions at this kind of occasion, but you got me there," Zhao replied. "I think we spend quite a lot, but I do not have the figure." Hours later, he texted the reporter, saying that the CPPCC spent 59 million yuan on the 2010 session, state media reported. Since then, the advisory body has posted online its annual budgets and final accounts for the plenary sessions - but only after the meetings end. "China does not have an audit for the legislature and the political advisory body," Hong Kong-based political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said. "It would be almost impossible to draw a clear line between what should and what should not be included in the budget, because there are so many indirect costs - the wages of the security and medical teams, for instance." But Lau said it was good that the austerity drive had spurred local governments to cut budgets for sending officials to such gatherings. The campaigns had saved taxpayers' money in that officials now dared not waste as much money as before. But simply cutting back on red carpets, banners and flowers was still no excuse for China to spend millions each year to bring together thousands of delegates just to give their "yes" vote, said Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan. "The NPC and CPPCC are little more than two rubber stamps that 'approve' the top leaders' decisions," Zhang said. "It has … little practical influence on the top political conclave's decision-making." Even so, that did not seem to dampen the delegates' enthusiasm to keep up with the austerity drive during last month's provincial plenary sessions. Henan delegates praised the buffet spread of steamed sweet potatoes and corn for "reminding us of the beauty of home-cooked meals", while their Anhui counterparts brought their own towels to the hotel, mainland media reported. As the austerity drive picks up pace, the government report's approval rate also appears to be rising. Last year, 99.3 per cent of delegates voted "yes", compared with 2013's 95 per cent.