Opinion / Editorials

Tighten oversight on official cars

(China Daily) Updated: 2015-01-06 08:20

Tighten oversight on official cars

Official cars at a government office in Zhejiang province are all foreign-brand vehicles. The central government plans to restrict the purchase of official vehicles to domestic brands. Zhang Heping / For China Daily

The Chinese government is good at reforms, except reform of its own vehicle use.

All government vehicles are supposed to be used only for government work serving the public interests.

Yet official cars now burn nearly 60 percent of government operational expenditure in China, and a toothless supervision system has turned official vehicles into cash cows for corrupt officials, and even drivers.

Excluding the cars used by State-owned enterprises, schools, hospitals, and other State institutions, Chinese governments at various levels spend about $70 billion on their 2 million vehicles each year. This means, on average, each official automobile costs about $35,000 every year.

The latest reform of government car use, which was started by President Xi Jinping last July and scheduled to last a year, focuses on plugging the institutional loopholes related to government vehicles.

Only senior officials above the level of vice-minister are entitled to special cars, and civil servants are encouraged to take public transportation or their own cars under a newly added traffic subsidy according to their real needs and jobs.

Yet some grassroots officials prefer official vehicles to the subsidy, especially in some remote places inaccessible by public transport. Thus, further reform needs to be flexible and meet practical needs. Local government expenditure on official vehicles must be included in the budget system, which is supervised by the people's congresses at various levels.

The government expenditure on cars must be transparent, and disclosed in a timely manner for scrutiny by independent supervisors and the public. Along with the procurement of official cars, the repair and maintenance of the cars should be provided by a third party through an open bid.

Government cars should carry signs that distinguish them from other vehicles. But these signs should by no means be symbols of privilege on the road. Official cars should set a good example in abiding by traffic rules.

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