“Open Government Information”: Tucked Away or Flatly Refused

In a further move to promote openness and transparency, the Chinese government is planning to extend the requirement for government departments to make public their sangong expenditures to lower levels of government,

China Daily reported in November last year.

The definition of these expenditures (sangong, 三公) includes government spending on overseas visits, the purchase and maintenance of government vehicles and government-sponsored reception,

But although the majority of State departments [sic]  have made public their figures as demanded, most of these figures are tucked away among assorted and separate budgetary items. The country’s current system does not obligate governments to include separate sangong expenditure figures in their budgets […]

About one year on, The Beijing News (新京报) covers the same issue – on Saturday, republished by Southern Metropolis Daily (plus a number of other online mainstream media) on Sunday:

The State Council required every department to make their sangong expenditures transparent to the public before June this year, but so far, 34 departments refuse to do so, and 27 departments give no sufficient reasons for their refusal. As is hardly known, the “Open Government Information Regulations” stipulate that all “information that involves the citizens’, judicial persons’ or other organizations’ own interests” and “require the society’s and public’s awareness or participation” belongs to the range of the government’s informational openness, and should be made transparent to the public. As this reguolation was officially implemented on May 1, 2008, why are there still 34 departments who dare to refuse transparency against the law? Where is [their] conscience of law and discipline?

国务院要求中央各部门务必于今年6月前向社会公开本级“三公经费”支出情况,可是时至今日,还有34个部门拒绝公开,并且有27家拒绝公开的理由不充分。殊不知,《政府信息公开条例》规定,凡“涉及公民、法人或者其他组织切身利益的”和“需要社会公众广泛知晓或者参与的”信息都属于政府信息公开范围,理应向社会公开。特别是该条件早已于2008年5月1日正式实施了,为什么还有34个部委敢于顶风而上拒不公开呢?法纪意识何在?

In fact, the “Open Government Information Regulations'” Article 12 [article 13, actually, at least according to this translation JR] stipulates that In addition to government information disclosed by administrative agencies on their own initiative provided for in Articles 9, 10, 11 and 12, citizens, legal persons or other organizations may, based on the special needs of such matters as their own production, livelihood and scientific and technological research, also file requests departments of the State Council, local people’s governments at all levels and departments under local people’s governments at the county level and above to obtain relevant government information. As for the sources of “sangong” from government revenues and fiscal revenues, tax revenues, people should have the right to know how their taxes were used, and how efficiently they were used. Only by transparency, once people know no reasonable use [of revenues] was made, or where more [means] would be needed, can the public be in a position to supervise, which in turn is conducive to guarantee the public’s rights to speak and to supervidse, and conducive to promoting promoting progress in building “sunshine government”, thus improving the governments’ capability of winning public trust.

事实上,《政府信息公开条例》第十二条规定,“公民、法人或者其他组织还可以根据自身生产、生活、科研等特殊需要,向国务院部门、地方各级人民政府及县级以上地方人民政府部门申请获取相关政府信息。”而“三公”经费来源于政府财政收入,财政收入又来源于税收,纳税人理应有权知道自己所缴纳的税款用在何处,用出了什么效益。只有公开之后,“三公”经费中哪些用得不合理,哪些需要加大投入等,公众心中才有数,才便于监督,有利于保障公众的表达权与监督权,推进“阳光政府”建设的步伐,从而提高政府的公信力。

With power comes responsibility, argues The Beijing News. Or, it adds,

With power comes responsibility, use of power needs supervision, violation of law requires compensation, and illegal action requires investigation. Leniency or softness on authorities’ cadres won’t do much to guarantee their own responsibility, or high standards in party and cadre control.

毕竟,“有权必有责,用权受监督,侵权要赔偿,违法要追究。”如果对权力机关干部监管失之于宽,失之于软,就难保他们对自己的所作所为负责,从严治党,从严治官,便无从谈起。

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Related

» How are you going to use this info, Lei Chuang, CMP, April 18, 2012
» Just Thin Air, Asia Times, Sep 12, 2008

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