CLOSELY WATCHED: Big, black official cars are easily identifiable among vehicles in the parking lot of a government agency in Beijing on January 30 (IC)
The abnormal surge in administrative costs is always related to excessive and unsupervised spending of public money on cars by officials, said Wang.
Recently, the government of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, a less developed region in northwest China, was criticized for spending more than 18 million yuan ($2.64 million) on expensive cars for official use.
Last December, the local government procured 71 cars, including 25 Audi A6 cars. The cost of the Audi cars alone came to nearly 9 million yuan ($1.32 million).
According to regulations issued by the Central Government in 1999, cars for officials at vice-ministerial level and above should not cost more than 350,000 yuan ($51,245) each. The price of the Audi purchased by the Ningxia government is 349,800 yuan ($51,215) each, only 200 yuan ($29.28) less than the stipulated limit.
The GDP of Ningxia ranked 29th out of all the 31 mainland provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China in 2008 and 2009, and was far less than that of the coastal provinces.
The Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee has listed overhaul of the official car management system as one of the country's anti-corruption priorities for this year.
At a press conference held by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection on December 29 last year, the commission's Vice Secretary Wu Yuliang said the central authorities would soon issue new and stricter regulations on cars purchased with public money.
The public spending on cars would be a key issue to be addressed by the CPC discipline watchdog in 2011, Wu said.
Wu also said the commission had made, and would continue to make, efforts to reduce the number of cars bought and used by Party and governmental organs nationwide.
A new attempt
All official cars in Guangzhou will be equipped with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to curb misuse and cut unnecessary expenditure, said Su Zhijia, Secretary of the CPC Guangzhou Municipal Commission for Discipline Inspection, on January 25.
Guangzhou is the first major city to install GPS devices in official cars in China. The city's Huangpu District, the Bureau of Finance and several other municipal government agencies participated in a pilot project last year.
Results of pilot projects show the cost to operate official cars droped 24 percent after they were equipped with GPS devices, Su said.
Su said major Party and government officials had been required to take the lead in the campaign.
Meanwhile, a unified monitoring platform will be launched for 24-hour monitoring, he said.
"Through the platform, a car's position can be checked at any time and shown on the map. Its travel route can also be recorded," Su said.
The system also enables monitoring staff to talk to people in the car at any time. When a car enters a forbidden area, the system will immediately report it and all the information will be reserved as a reference.
Statistics released by the Guangzhou Bureau of Finance show the government pays up to 35,000 yuan ($5,316) annually for each official car, including parking fees, tolls and gasoline bills. The government also pays each official car driver a monthly salary of about 5,000 yuan ($732.06).
"Many official cars have been found to be frequently used for private purposes in the past," said Zhang Jieming, Director of the bureau.
Local lawmakers and political advisors have applauded the move.
Qi Hai, a deputy to the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress, said GPS devices will certainly help enhance the management of the city's fleet of cars.
"But I hope relevant departments will do more to subject official cars to public supervision," Qi said.
He said the departments should frequently disclose the results of the GPS supervision, details on official cars being used for private purposes and the punishment of involved officials and drivers.