Information requests snubbed

By Guo Kai Source:Global Times Published: 2012-11-3 0:55:05

A team from the China University of Political Science and Law has found that the majority of government bodies fail to respond to legal freedom of information requests.

The group, sponsored by the Center for Public Participation Studies and Support at Peking University, sent individual requests for per capita spending information to 42 government bodies at cabinet level or below, but received only nine positive responses, the Legal Daily reported Friday.

The results were edited into a report on the "three public expenses" of overseas visits, official vehicles and receptions, which was recently released to the public. All three are widely considered to be common sources of corruption.

Among the government bodies that refused to offer the information, 15 said their reports were undergoing the approval, and 11 said information on per capita expenditures is not among the items covered. Another seven failed to respond at all.

The People's Bank of China explained that the information referred to State secrets, which Chinese netizens doubted.

"The survey result reflects the attitude of these government bodies toward publishing government information," Ye Qing, deputy director of the Hubei Provincial Bureau of Statistics, told the Global Times. Ye noted that, although publishing the information was mandated by the law, current regulations offer no punishment for not doing so.

The insouciant attitude toward requests for information was in defiance of the Government Information Publicity Regulations, Professor Wang Jingbo from China University of Political Science and Law told the Legal Daily.

"According to the 24th article of the publicity regulations, the government organs have to respond to the applications within 15 days, and at most, with a 15-day extension," Wang said.

Since 2010, the central government has begun to make spending public and local governments have also followed the trend. However, the information published by some local governments have puzzled the public.

The People's Congress of Guangzhou, Guangdong Province recently published the "three public expenses" of the city's agricultural bureau in 2010 as 10.32 million yuan ($1.65 million) in total, but the bureau published the expenses on its official website on June 28 as totaling 4.88 million yuan, the Nanfang Daily reported on Wednesday.

"It might be a real mistake made by the bureau," Ye Qing told the Global Times.

However, netizens were skeptical, arguing that both figures might be false.


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