China removes more than 100,000 'phantom' government officials

China removes more than 100,000 'phantom' government officials

BEIJING - More than 100,000 "phantom employees" of provincial governments in China who were paid but did no work have been removed in Hebei, Sichuan, Henan and Jilin provinces.

This comes after a national campaign was launched last year requiring stricter measures to keep government teams clean and efficient, experts said.

In Hebei province, more than 55,000 officials in government units and staff members of public institutes were removed as part of the Mass Line Campaign that has targeted corruption and bureaucracy, Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday.

They were found to be getting paid, even though they no longer worked in the government and public institutes.

"We have taken a series of measures to expose such officials as a major way to make relations between the CPC (Communist Party of China) members and the public closer," Zhao Wenhai, deputy head of the province's finance bureau, told Xinhua.

Sichuan province has removed 28,000 officials who were being paid although they did not work, and 15,000 officials were exposed in Henan province. Jilin province uncovered 8,600 such officials.

The total in the four provinces was seen as an alarming number, as demonstrated by online comments on Thursday.

Yang Weidong, a law professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said: "One of the major reasons for the large numbers of the ghost officials is the easy pay."

The redundant officials have taken a huge chunk out of budget allocations. Hebei recovered 120 million yuan (S$25 million) by the end of July, accounting for 55 per cent of the wasted allocation on these officials, said an announcement in August by the provincial government.

For Henan province, the ghost officials exposed last year had been paid around 118 million yuan, the provincial government said in January.

The lack of effective supervision from higher authorities and light punishments after exposure are also important factors that encouraged senior officials to make arrangements in government that benefited their families, said Xin Ming, a professor of the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

Yang, the law professor, said that's also the reason why the phantom officials cannot be cleared out completely.

"The root solution to keep the teams in governments and public institutes clean and efficient is to strengthen supervision, including scrutiny by the departments in charge of personnel arrangement and the financing bureaus," Yang said.

Senior officials' power should also be controlled, he added.

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