China’s ‘tea party’ grumbles over government waste

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However, analysts and citizens alike agree that the Chinese government will need to take further steps to make a real difference in the spending habits of bureaucrats.

The san gong budgets show rounded-off numbers and contain few details about specific expenses, said Ye Qing, a member of the National People’s Congress who is campaigning to cut san gong spending.

Without any further details, the reported numbers can be deceiving, Mr. Ye told the South China Morning Post newspaper.

The Ministry of Agriculture had one of the largest san gong budgets, totaling $37 million. However, the agency divided that number by its payroll of 84,000 employees and 86,000 retirees to report that it spent only $217 per worker.

On the other hand, the Poverty Alleviation office’s $225,000 san gong spending added up to an average of $1,680 per employee.

Such discrepancies are not readily revealed by the san gong reports, Mr. Zeng said.

A commentary on the financial news site Hexun.com argued that a more scientific approach - one that takes into account staff and functions - would be needed to more effectively monitor and control government spending in China.

The limited experiment in reporting on government budgets leaves Chinese citizens like Ms. Liang feeling powerless.

“People complaining is not going to stop them from spending. They’ve been doing it for so long,” she said.

Ms. Liang said she expects little to change until the government imposes laws to rein in spendthrift bureaucrats.

“The reason they give us the san gong is that they want the public to watch the government,” Ms. Liang said. “But since there is no legal limit on government spending, there’s nothing we can actually do about it.”

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