China's central authorities on Tuesday introduced a five-year ban on the construction of new government buildings as part of an ongoing frugality campaign.
The General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council jointly issued a directive that calls for an across-the-board halt to the construction of new government buildings, training centers or hotels in the coming five years.
The directive says some departments and localities have built government office compounds in violation of regulations.
The directive calls on all CPC and government bodies to be frugal and ensure that government funds and resources are spent on developing the economy and boosting the public's well-being.
Experts said the directive is a continuation of efforts to build a clean government and improve work styles in order to strengthen the government's ties to the people.
According to the directive, the construction, purchase, restoration or expansion of office compounds that is done in the guise of building repair or urban planning will be strictly forbidden.
The directive also bans CPC and government organizations from receiving any form of construction sponsorship or donations, as well as collaborating with enterprises, in developing construction projects.
While allowing restoration projects for office buildings with dated facilities, the directive stresses that such projects must be exclusively aimed at erasing safety risks and restoring office functions.
According to the instruction, such projects must be approved first by related administrative departments, with criteria and spending to be set in accordance with local conditions.
Expensive and unnecessary renovations will be prohibited, the directive says.
The directive stipulates that expenditures on office building restoration should be included in CPC and government budgets.
According to the directive, buildings with reception functions, such as those related to accommodation, meetings and catering, should not be restored.
In December 2012, the CPC's leaders pledged to improve the party's work style and eliminate extravagance and bureaucracy.
The party also initiated a campaign in June for strengthening the party's "mass line", which refers to a guideline under which CPC officials and members are required to prioritize the interests of the people and persist in representing them and working on their behalf.
Professor Wang Yukai from the Chinese Academy of Governance said the ban is part of the CPC's plan to improve its work style and promote the "mass line" concept.
Wang said the move may also be related to downward pressure in the economy.
"In order to let the people live comfortably, the government has to tighten its belt and cut its own spending," Wang said.
The directive orders all CPC and government departments to rectify the misuse of office buildings, including those that are used for functions that have not been approved or offices that are overly spacious.
A 2001 regulation concerning the construction of office buildings for CPC and government departments contains specific standards for the sizes of offices built for officials at every level of government.
The directive says CPC and government officials with multiple posts should be each given only one office, while offices for those who have retired or taken leave should be returned in time.
Local authorities should establish or perfect the management of government buildings by strictly verifying the buildings' total area, according to the directive.
Departments that have moved to renovated or newly-built locations should transfer the original office blocks to government office administrators in a timely manner, according to the directive.
Departments and units at all levels should address possible office shortages by adding new institutions on their own. If the additions do not meet their needs, government office administrators should adjust existing resources to solve the shortage, according to the directive.
Strict approval procedures are also required for renting new office blocks, according to the directive.
"Banning the building of new government buildings is important for building a clean government and also a requirement for boosting CPC-people ties and maintaining the image of the CPC and the government," according to the directive.
Leading officials should take the lead in the campaign and relevant departments should map out measures for its implementation as soon as possible, the directive says.
Wang said that although similar bans already exist, the new ban is more strict and detailed, removing loopholes that have allowed local-level governments to circumvent central government orders.
The directive says the ban is an important part of building a more transparent government and strengthening ties between the CPC and the public, adding that authorities at all levels should create related standards and measures for the ban's implementation.
Departments in charge of investment should perfect approval procedures and internal supervision,while financial departments should tighten the management of public finance budgets by refraining from allotting funds for building projects without going through relevant approval procedures, according to the directive.
The renovation of existing government buildings and the construction of new buildings should be made known to the public, the directive says.
Land and resource management departments should tighten land supplies and management, while auditing departments should strengthen supervision over renovation and construction projects, the directive says.
Discipline inspection authorities should look into violations related to such projects, the directive says, adding that those responsible for allowing projects that violate regulations should be harshly punished.
Relevant departments should report their progress to the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council before Sept. 30.
The general offices will supervise and inspect new renovations and construction, as well as inform the public of such inspections.
Wang said harsh punishments for those who defy the ban will be necessary in order to ensure the ban's effectiveness. Endi