91% city govts lacking fiscal transparency, survey says

By Wang Yizhou Source:Global Times Published: 2012-6-13 1:15:05

The majority of city governments in China lack fiscal transparency, with most expenditures hidden from the public, a survey conducted by Tsinghua University has found.

Only seven out of the 81 city governments surveyed satisfied the basic requirements for fiscal transparency, accounting for 8.6 percent, according to the survey released yesterday.

A research team examined the 2010 fiscal disclosure of four municipalities and 77 city governments in 22 provinces and five autonomous regions based on eight criteria, including whether they had released information on government structures and functions, 2011 budget reports and final accounts for 2010.

Other criteria included the publication of government funds, land transfer fees, public expenses and government debts.

The latter criteria is particularly vulnerable  to abuse at the hands of corrupt officials, Yu Qiao, a professor of economics in the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University who headed the research, told the Global Times.

"City governments are not as transparent as people expect," said Yu.

On a scale of 1 to 8 where 8 represented the greatest fiscal transparency, Beijing topped the list scoring 6, followed by Shanghai (5.75) and Nanyang, Henan Province (5.25). Shihezi in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Qingyang in Gansu Province and Baotou in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region ranked among the least fiscally transparent city governments.

The investigation showed that per capita GDP, foreign trade dependence and the educational background of top city officials were three main factors influencing governments' fiscal transparency.

Yu said officials with a university education are more inclined to disclose fiscal information.

The survey found that few governments released their final accounts, while none publicized their extra-budgetary expenditures.

"People's congresses at all levels have to step up legislation and further supervision on the publication of fiscal information," said Yu. "Only when governments are well supervised and constrained can corruption be reined in."

Jiang Hong, a professor of fiscal science at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times that the report should pave the way for some positive changes.

"But progress depends on determination from the governments," Jiang added.

The country has taken steps toward greater transparency in public expenditure in recent years.

Last month, the general office of the State Council issued an order requiring governments at all levels to disclose information concerning their budgets, affordable housing, food safety, environmental protection, land requisitions and housing demolitions in a more transparent manner.

Gou Yannan, a professor of economics at Fudan University, told the Global Times that more time is needed before fiscal plans of city governments can be made more transparent to the public.

Xinhua contributed to this story

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