People look for hidden bribery methods as CCDI tightens inspections over holidays

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2016/2/3 20:28:01

Photo: IC


"Even if we want to dine with government officials, they are hiding," an employee with one of China's telecommunications giant told the Global Times Tuesday, describing how cautious officials are around major festivals.

The employee, surnamed Liu, finished an exhausting round of negotiations with an official from a government-affiliated industry association, who then refused his offer of dinner and instead bought a cheap KFC set meal.

An official surnamed Xu at a commerce department in South China's Guangdong Province said "a photo taken by a passerby of you eating in a luxury restaurant could get you in trouble."

Gifts and feasts are particularly sensitive matters during annual festivals, as discipline inspections are usually tightened during traditional gift-giving periods, a manager surnamed He with the State-owned China Merchants Group Ltd told the Global Times.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China launches special campaigns and tightens their inspections during the Chinese Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and Lantern Festival periods.

Gift-giving was curbed after the anti-graft campaign began in 2013, and few people will risk losing their job over a gift card or a dinner, private company employees in charge of government relations told the Global Times.

Treats that trick

As CCDI inspections tighten, people are constantly looking for new ways to gain influence through government officials for personal gain.

A government official in Central China's Hunan Province told the Global Times that gift-giving still exists as interpersonal relations remain important to "get things done without unnecessary man-made obstacles."

Several sellers on Taobao reached by the Global Times said they could issue invoices that describe gifts such as silver tableware and red wine as "office supplies."

This allows companies to reimburse their employees for buying gifts without leaving an obvious paper trail, disguising their role in bribery. Electronic gift cards and money sent via the WeChat messaging app are also new bribery methods, a newspaper affiliated with the CCDI and the Ministry of Supervision reported in January.

Chen Yongquan, president of a local television station in Zuoyun county, North China's Shanxi Province, was found cashing in 100,000 yuan ($15,210) from fuel gift cards he was bribed with, the CCDI reported in January. 

Some businessmen even hand out QR codes which the recipient only needs to scan to have a free gift delivered to them, and if they don't like the gift they can sell it online, Central China Television (CCTV) reported in 2014.

Having gifts delivered to officials via express delivery services is one popular bribery method, as it is harder to detect than if the giver hands over a gift in person, He said.

Some stores now provide home delivery services for presents or gift cards so that the sender can keep a low profile, said CCTV. However, while these methods help camouflage bribery, they do not make it invisible.

"Giving my home address and cellphone number to a person I don't know isn't a wise move, as the information of senders and recipients is recorded in the system of delivery company," Xu told the Global Times.

He added that many government procedures are now subjected to a greater level of oversight than in previous years, which limits the room for officials to use their power in a corrupt way.

"Profit-seeking behaviors occur when government bodies control approval rights over many projects, but now such approval rights are delegated to different parties and the processes are required to be disclosed online for public supervision," said Xu.

The CCDI launched an official account on WeChat on January 1, and members of the public can send tip-offs to the account about officials acting improperly to widen public involvement in the campaign against corruption.  The watchdog also launched a section on its website for tip-offs in 2013 and a tip-off facility on its app in June 2015 to gather reports of low-level corruption and minor discipline violations, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Newspaper headline: Better to give

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