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Local Gov't Urged to Recover Misused Funds in Three Gorges Project
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Chongqing Municipality was urged Saturday to recover resettlement funds misappropriated during the country's massive Three Gorges Project as rapidly as possible.


"Local authorities must recover the money before the end of March, or else the officials concerned will be held responsible," Xia Kailiang, director of the Supervision Bureau with the Committee for Construction of Three Gorges Project under the State Council, told a meeting held in Yichang of central China's Hubei Province on Saturday.


China's National Audit Office (NAO) reported that 272 million yuan (US$34.8 million) of funds allocated for the resettlement of residents displaced by the Three Gorges project in 2004 and 2005 were misappropriated by local authorities in Hubei Province and southwestern Chongqing Municipality.


The money was used to open local government-run businesses, pay off the debts of other local departments, pay salaries in administrative departments, build more office buildings and houses for people unrelated to the resettlement project, or pay off bank loans, according to the NAO.


Auditors also found that local authorities fraudulently claimed an additional 16.94 million yuan between 2004 and 2005, for example to pay non-existent workers. Some construction enterprises were found to have raised the cost of resettlement projects unnecessarily.


The central government allocated 9.6 billion yuan in resettlement funds in 2004 and 2005.


The NAO audited the use of the resettlement funds in 10 Hubei and Chongqing counties and districts in 2006. Since the auditing process only covered certain regions and a restricted time period, the real total of misappropriated funds may be higher.


To date, Hubei has recovered all 63.85 million yuan of misused money, while Chongqing still has 46.9 million yuan to find, Xia told Saturday's meeting.


A total of 1.4 million people have had to be relocated to make way for the Three Gorges Project on the middle reaches of the Yangtze, the longest river in China.


The majority of people have been relocated to other places in Chongqing and Hubei while others have resettled in eastern and southern provinces.


Launched in 1993 at an estimated cost of 180 billion yuan (about US$22.5 billion), the Three Gorges Project, the world's largest hydro-electric project, will have 26 generators able to generate 84.7 billion kwh of electricity annually.


(Xinhua News Agency February 11, 2007)


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