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January 25, 2010

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Fight against corruption hits Beijing offices

CHINA plans to shut down thousands of Beijing offices set up by local governments with many accused of maneuvering between central and local governments, resulting in corruption and irregularities involving fund allocation, project bidding and even officials' promotions.

Beijing has 572 offices of governments at and above city level as well as more than 5,000 county offices.

Added to those set up by provincial departments, development zones, associations, state-owned enterprises and universities, the total number for different types of Beijing offices will be more than 10,000, the Beijing-based Outlook Weekly said.

According to the new policy, only offices of governments above city level will be allowed to remain while those for prefecture-level governments will need the approval of their provincial governments.

Corruption and irregularities involving local governments' Beijing offices in recent years triggered an investigation by the disciplinary arm of the Communist Party of China Central Committee in 2006.

The offices have become an industry involving billions of yuan in expenditure and numerous employees.

According to a source in the Government Offices Administration of the State Council, the 52 Beijing offices of governments above city levels had almost 8,000 employees.

The assets of local governments' Beijing offices surpassed 10 billion yuan (US$1.46 billion) in 2001 and their expenditures for housing in 2002 was 4.3 billion yuan.

A large amount of expenses reportedly were spent in lobbying or treating visiting local officials and office directors were granted absolute control over their annual budget.

A scandal involving two offices last year sparked outrage. The Beijing offices of Xuchang City and Luohe City of Henan Province spent 660,000 yuan on 777 bottles of Moutai - a well-known Chinese liquor - for entertaining guests as well as resale at restaurants and hotels affiliated to them, but they were later found to be fake and the matter was reported to the commerce and industry watchdog in Beijing.


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