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China: Study Exposes Poor Government Transparency
Source: china.globaltimes.cn
Source Date: Thursday, September 30, 2010
Focus: E-Procurement
Country: China
Created: Sep 30, 2010

More than half of China's city and provincial governments surveyed have failed open-information requirements, while only two out of 43 organs under China's cabinet managed to pass marginally, a report has found.

A leading expert on public administration cautioned that enhancing government transparency remains an arduous task, and strictly abiding by the existing regulations on the disclosure of government information is the key to transparency.

The China Government Transparency Watch Report 2009, released Tuesday by the Center for Public Participation Studies and Support (CPPSS) at Peking University, sampled 30 city and provincial governments, and 43 organs under the State Council.

Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and the Tibet Autonomous Region were not included in the survey.

Only 12 out of 30 cities and provincial-level governments obtained 60 points or above, out of 100 points, in terms of meeting open-information requirements, with a pass rate of 40 percent, the report found.

Beijing ranked first in the report with 76.5 points, followed by Tianjin, Guangdong Province and Shanghai. The provinces of Gansu and Shandong, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region ranked at the bottom of the list. Ningxia, in last, scored 35 points.

The annual report, a joint project by the CPPSS and the China Law Center under Yale Law School, began publishing findings last year.

Compared with the report in 2009, some governments have made progress in the proactive disclosure of administrative information, the project leader, Wang Xixin, vice dean of the law school at Peking University, told the Global Times Wednesday.

It took about one year to finish the project, with 120 researchers involved, according to Wang. The evaluation standards were set up based on the Regulation on the Disclosure of Government Information, China's specific administrative situation, and multiple research methods of similar projects in other countries.

"It is our first step in supervising how the regulations are carried out," Wang said.

Spokespersons for Beijing and Shanghai governments could not be reached Wednesday, and information officers for the Inner Mongolia and Ningxia governments were inaccessible.

In addition, the report found only two out of 43 reached the pass line of 60 points, includ-ing the Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) with 61 points, and the Ministry of Commerce with 60 points.

The Ministry of Supervision and Ministry of Railways ranked last and second to last with 12 and 24 points, respectively.

A group of professional experts obtained the findings by reviewing government annual reports, which were required for online information or field investigations, the CPPSS wrote on its official website.

The issuance of the report coincided with the International Day of the Right to Know.

Wang Yukai, a professor of public management at the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times Wednesday that the report may be positive in supervising local governments to enhance transparency, but strictly abiding by the regulations is the key.

Having taken effect May 1, 2008, the regulation stipulates that officials must release information to the public if the requested information involves the vital interests of citizens.

"Some officials have the habitual idea that they can publish information only when they want the public to know," he said.

But some local authorities reportedly insisted that they had the right to "maintain secrecy" on some controversial issues, such as environmental risks and food safety.

The "secrets" concerning the country's security and profits may conflict with the disclosure of information, he said.

Meanwhile, reports said some government websites have not been updated for up to three years. And, some have no contact information at all.

Those websites are obliged to disclose information through multiple channels such as statements, news conferences, newspapers, as well as radio and TV programs according to the regulation.

For instance, the government website of Inner Mongolia was inaccessible, and the "contact us" menu on the government website of Ningxia redirects visitors to its front page.

Chen Rui contributed to this story
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