Officers in China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) are learning to watch every penny they spend as the leadership demands better accounting and value for money.
General Liao Xilong, chief of the PLA General Logistics Department and a member of the Central Military Commission who also leads the military audit office, says officers are shouldering more financial responsibility as the PLA's modernization and combat readiness improves.
"The implication is that auditing is becoming evermore important," Liao said.
Statistics from the PLA auditing office show 13,594 military officers with finance responsibilities have been inspected over the past decade, and 9,828 or 72 percent have been audited since the start of the tenth five-year period (2001-2005), but it is not clear how much money has been improperly used.
The PLA plans to inspect at least 4,000 officers above regiment level by 2010, including at least 100 generals.
"Officers at middle and senior levels are the backbone of the PLA and play a crucial role in policy implementation. Whether or not officers with financial duties can manage military budgets to improve combat effectiveness is a significant issue we can't afford to ignore," he said.
The PLA had a special military audit office installed in 1985, which originally targeted only military entities involved in equipment and materials management and engineering construction.
It was only after 1988 when the military force in Heilongjiang took the lead in scrutinizing individuals that the practice became routine throughout the armed forces.
Liao said the priorities of auditors would be leaders whose departments were responsible for projects with significance to the PLA's combat effectiveness.
"Auditors must monitor the full process of such projects from budgeting to expenditure and evaluate project effectiveness upon accomplishment," he said.
Other targets include military officers with authority in budgeting, procurement and engineering construction and who have triggered complaints among lower ranks or have been reported for malpractice.
"It's a basic rule that auditing must precede the promotion or retirement of all individuals with financial responsibilities," Liao said.
Audits of individuals led to greater budgetary awareness, while discouraging transgressions and corruption from the top down, he said.
The government has budgeted 350.9 billion yuan (US$48.79 billion) on military expenditure this year.
The money would be used to improve living conditions and accommodation of the rank-and-file, training on new equipment and special technologies, intensified training of specialist units, as well as upgrading armaments and other equipment.
"Military auditing is anything but locking the stable door after the horse has bolted," Liao said. "Its goal is to rectify problems, optimize management, establish a long-term mechanism for modernizing the PLA so it can use less to achieve more."
The general said auditing officers should be a routine job jointly carried out by audit, discipline and finance departments. The audit results should also provide references for promotions.
"For those who excel in their daily management, auditing departments should propose commendations; for whose who are misunderstood or unfairly treated, auditing departments can straighten out problems and reveal the facts."
Those who flouted laws and regulations must be dealt with in line with military discipline and regulations, Liao said.
(Xinhua News Agency July 20, 2007)