Regulation cuts spending on official meetings

Updated: 2013-09-24 00:56

By Zhao Lei (China Daily)

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China has issued a new regulation on spending for official conferences, pledging to streamline government work and curb extravagance.

The regulation, which was published on Monday and takes effect on Jan 1, applies to the central organs of all political parties, the top legislative and political advisory bodies, central government departments and publicly funded organizations overseen by the central government.

It aims to close loopholes in the current regulation, which has failed to constrain unnecessary meetings and extravagance, said a statement from the Ministry of Finance, which led the drawing-up of the regulation.

Organizations covered by the document must include spending for their conferences in their annual budgets and give details on each item in the expenditures, the regulation stipulates, adding that no cost beyond the budget will be allowed.

Spending must be settled through a bank transfer or government credit card instead of cash.

Conferences with fewer than 50 participants should use the organizer's meeting room rather than venues in a hotel. Five-star hotels shall not be used unless the conference is hosted in the name of the Communist Party of China Central Committee or State Council, and such meetings must be approved by the two before being held.

Organizers are forbidden to charge attendees for their meetings or ask their local branches or companies to pay for conference spending. They are also banned from choosing places outside Beijing if participants are mainly based in the capital.

Dinners during a government conference shall not be served with expensive dishes or liquor. Decorations and flowers shall not be placed in meeting venues.

Sightseeing and souvenir will no longer be offered for participants, according to the regulation, which also requests that related organizations make public the name, topic, participants and costs of their conferences unless they contain confidential government information.

A tougher standard is also applied to control the number of participants, and all conferences, with the exception of those hosted in the name of the CPC Central Committee or State Council, will be limited to two days.

The only clause that may allow meeting organizers to relax a little is that spending standards for each participant will be slightly lifted, a consideration to offset the swelling cost.

"The move shows the Party and the central government are determined to further improve government work and root out officials' extravagance rather than just making some empty promises," said Wu Hui, an associate professor of governance at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.

"Though the government made rules on government conference spending long ago and keeps promising to implement them strictly, some government officials always find loopholes," he said. "This time they will find it virtually impossible to ignore or sidestep the regulation because the loopholes are closed and the guidelines are clearly detailed."

In addition, the new version has a larger coverage compared with the existing one, and meetings convened by publicly funded organizations and small-scale workshops will also be subject to the stringent rules, he said.