CHINA - While some key posts in China are left vacant, a recent media report has uncovered a phenomenon of over-staffing in the deputy secretary-general (DSG) post across the local governments.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2009 had instructed that the number of DSGs, in principle, should not exceed that of vice-mayors in a city government or vice-governors in a provincial government.
But among 22 provincial governments studied by the Southern Metropolis newspaper in its Aug 19 report, only one - Fujian in the south - followed the rule.
Some have twice as many DSGs: Beijing tops the list with 16 DSGs and eight vice-mayors, while Hainan has 11 DSGs and five vice-governors.
The lack of clarity of the job scope has led some to describe the DSG post sarcastically as the "most mysterious" job in China.
Even the CCP mouthpiece, the People's Daily, has weighed in with an editorial on Aug 19 urging the authorities to give clearer guidelines to curb the pursuit of official posts for personal gain.
Shenzhen University public administration professor Ma Jingren said local governments use the DSG as a post for older officials unable to take on the top jobs.
In some instances, local governments appoint additional DSGs to prepare for major conferences but keep them after the events end.
As a result, many DSGs reportedly do not have clearly defined responsibilities, which is a problem in assigning liability if things go wrong, say observers.
"One solution is to expand the use of short-term contracts for officials who are hired for specific projects and periods, like what some cities are doing," Prof Ma told The Straits Times.
This article was first published on August 28, 2014.
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