Chinese auditors have found 2.16 billion yuan (US$276.9 million) misappropriated from 26 highway construction projects, said the National Audit Office (NAO) in a statement on Monday.
The national audit campaign covered construction of 34 arterial highways, with a total length of 5,324 kilometers and a total investment of 166.2 billion yuan.
Most of the highways were built during the 10th Five-Year Plan period from 2001 to 2005, when China invested 1.04 trillion yuan in the construction of 31,318 kilometers of highways.
The statement cited the communications bureau of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, which had misappropriated 26 million yuan of construction funds for its own use since 1999.
In northeast China's Jinlin Province, 96 million yuan was illegally diverted from the construction of a highway between Siping and Baishan to other public works projects.
The NAO also said losses of 2.72 billion yuan were incurred in 16 projects because of design faults and hurried construction.
In 21 projects, local governments and relevant parties embezzled, withheld and deducted 1.64 billion yuan meant for farmers who had lost their lands to highways.
Meanwhile, bribery and other behind-the-scenes deals were uncovered in contracts for 20 projects involving a total of 9.04 billion yuan.
On 14 highways more than a year old by the end of 2005, traffic flows were less than 60 percent of the figures predicted by the feasibility reports, making it difficult for construction loans to be repaid in time, according to the statement.
Traffic flows were only 14 percent of the expected figures on a highway in Harbin, capital of the northeast Heilongjiang Province.
The NAO referred 34 cases to judicial departments and 16 to communications authorities. They involved a total of 81 people.
Meanwhile, 1.17 billion yuan of embezzled funds were recovered and 11.63 million yuan of illegal profits had been confiscated from construction companies.
(Xinhua News Agency March 27, 2007)