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China warns officials against corruption over quake fund use
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China is warning officials at all levels to protect the billions in quake-relief funds from improper handling.

At a nationwide live press conference Monday, the Ministry of Supervision's top official reaffirmed the importance of a recently-issued regulation by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to avoid the misuse of the funds.

The regulation, outlining detailed rules for the management and usage of the quake-relief funds, will punish violators in any position as well as those who cover up corruption.

"Those funds will be used to save the quake-affected people's lives and to help them settle down," Ma Wen, also head of the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention (NBCP), said at the conference. "No embezzlement is tolerable."

After the 8.0-magnitude quake jolted the country's southwest on May 12, the central and local governments devoted 54.31 billion yuan (about 7.76 billion U.S. dollars) into the quake zone. To date, the domestic and foreign donations had reached 52.48 billion yuan in cash and goods.

Although the country's top leaders have promised the public to make a transparent and clean account of the funds, illegalities of the "life-saving" money stilled occurred.

To date, China has penalized 43 officials for misconduct involving relief in the quake-hit regions. Among them, 12 serious offenders were removed from their posts.

By June 20, the country had received 1,178 public complaints about official misdeeds and the National Audit Office (NAO) confirmed 111 reported clues relating to quake-relief funds and material used via tips over the phone and Internet.

"So far no embezzlement or misappropriation of quake-relief funds had been found to date," said the NAO's top auditor Liu Jiayi at the conference.

According to Liu, about 10,000 auditors had been mobilized from other parts of the country to the quake zone. To date, more than 28.9 billion yuan in quake funds had been audited.

On Sunday, the CPC Central Committee debuted its five-year plan for the prevention and punishment of corruption by pushing forward the government's rules regarding information transparency.

As an important development in the Party's anti-corruption endeavors, the plan pledged to improve its internal supervision over organizations, official bodies or individuals in charge of the management of funds.

(Xinhua News Agency June 24, 2008)

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