In a somewhat shocking news story raising far more questions than it answers, state auditors disclosed this week that more than five percent of Yunnan's 502 billion yuan (US$72.8) provincial government budget for fiscal year 2016 was "lost, mismanaged, wasted" or otherwise "misappropriated".
The squandered funds total 28.2 billion yuan (US$4.1 billion), although inspectors reportedly recovered large amounts of money over the course of their investigation. The audit covered 13,000 government work units — in Chinese referred to as danwei (单位) — spanning 400 projects across the province. Beyond these statistics, little information has been released concerning what specific government programs were affected and who, if anyone, has been held accountable.
As of this writing, only the provincial health insurance system had been publicly singled out, albeit extremely vaguely. The audit uncovered an enigmatic "671 issues" and "identified 69 major legal and disciplinary violations" within the Social Security Administration. None of those issues and violations have been explained with any amount of clarity.
Even the report's terminology is difficult to understand. Although the term "misappropriated" has been used repeatedly in media accounts, it remains unclear if the the word is used to indicate graft, incompetence or both. Also unexplained is how government accountants were able to return the rather sizable sum of 9.5 billion yuan (US$1.38 billion) to provincial coffers while conducting their probe.
In light of the news, some 362 new regulations regarding how, where and when Yunnan officials can allocate the expenditure of money have been issued. Perhaps the most serious of these states that "20 of the top government cadres in the province" will now be held personally accountable for the results of any future economic audits.
In addition, high-level work groups led by Provincial Assistant Party Secretary Ruan Chengfa (阮成发) and Vice Governor Li Jiang (李江) were required to read and discuss Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's (李克强) recent remarks on national audits and government accountability practices.
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