The annual auditing of the central government's budget which would often discover irregularities and even some economic crimes, was once described as "a loud thunder with only a few rain drops" referring to the lack of efforts in rectifying the irregularities and punishing the perpetrators.
We are finally feeling the rain when an announcement published yesterday said 4.195 billion yuan that had been misappropriated had been returned by October last year and 88 perpetrators had been arrested for their involvement and 104 disciplined.
We are greatly relieved to find in the announcement that 95 percent of irregularities in the central government budget have been rectified and the misuse of the social security fund has been addressed in many provinces and cities.
The announcement sends the message that our auditing office is playing its role as a watchdog not only to catch the thieves but also to keep an eye on the process of making them return the money stolen and have them punished.
That our auditing departments are playing an increasingly important role in supervising how public money is spent and the great concern the general public has shown to the annual auditing report is a sign that public awareness is being addressed.
Yet, we face great challenges to make our auditing departments play an even more active role, and a long way to go in making our civil servants understand they have an obligation to strictly abide by rules in spending public money.
The painful truth is that auditors discover the same irregularities that were found the year before. This has been verified by the auditing reports of the National Audit Office in past years.
The auditing report of 2007 is yet to come out. It will be published in the middle of this year. So we do not know whether the situation has improved.
The fact that auditing reports in past years failed to mention the name of some departments where irregularities had taken place suggests that there are still hurdles in rectification of the problems.
Auditor-General Li Jinhua promised last year his 2008 auditing report would make public all the problems discovered and the names of departments involved. We hope he will honor his pledge. It will promote rule-abiding awareness among civil servants at all levels.
(China Daily February 1, 2008)