Govt issues tough accountability code for officials

Auditors nationwide will keep a close eye on officials in three key areas of accountability: government debt, natural resources and implementation of the central government's frugality campaign.

Government officials will be held accountable for decisions that result in grave economic losses, massive spending of State assets, serious damage to the environment and serious harm to public interests, according to a guideline released on Sunday evening.

The guideline, jointly drafted by seven commissions and departments, including the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection - China's top anti-graft watchdog - will hold officials from all public sectors, including Party and government agencies, State-owned enterprises, and public institutes, responsible. Judicial authorities, including judges and prosecutors, will also be audited, according to the guideline.

Officials in key positions will be audited at least once during their terms, and leaders of Party and government departments will be audited after they leave their posts.

Local officials will be audited to check how much government debt they have accrued during their terms in office. China's local government debt has reached more than 10 trillion yuan ($1.62 trillion) as of June last year, according to statistics released by the National Audit Office in late December.

The guideline issued on Sunday is also focusing on the implementation of frugality rules put forward by the CPC Central Committee in December 2012, in which officials are urged to curb undesirable behavior, including extravagance and hedonism.

The guideline is a detailed version of a regulation issued in 2010 that aims to boost clean governance through consistent auditing.

Zhang Tong, a senior official with the National Audit Office, said he expects beefed-up supervision of economic activities.

He said that many low-level officials have embezzled large amounts of public funds, which is why the guideline has placed grassroots village officials under stricter auditing procedures.

Senior managers of State-owned enterprises, including board chairmen, general managers and Party secretaries, will also be audited, he said.

Du Xiangqian, an economist and auditing researcher, said the guideline is expected to strengthen regulation toward government expenses and enhance supervision of officials.

More than 220,000 officials, including 160 at the senior provincial level, have been audited since 2008, and 2,580 of them have been handed over to judicial authorities on allegations of corruption, according to statistics released on Monday by the National Audit Office.

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