China raps more government bodies in spending probe

BEIJING - China's audit authorities on Wednesday rapped more government departments over unauthorised spending, including prominent state media outlets that are supposed to be leading a high-profile charge to banish graft and excess.

The Communist Party has been eager to project a frugal image since Xi Jinping became president last year, renewing efforts to stamp out corruption and win back public confidence after an endless series of scandals involving high-living officials.

In a lengthy report, its second in two days, the National Audit Office summarised problems discovered in 37 branches of government, but did not give the total of misspent funds.

Two of the bodies probed were the official Xinhua news agency and the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper, both of which have issued stern warnings against extravagance and waste on an almost daily basis.

It said Xinhua had sent five groups of officials on unapproved overseas trips, and had spent 1.37 million yuan (US$220,000) it should not have on 15 cars.

The Global Times, an influential and widely-read tabloid published by the People's Daily, was criticised for spending 6.6 million yuan since 2009 on electrical equipment that bypassed the government procurement process.

The People's Daily itself drew fire for arranging meetings and entertaining guests in five-star hotels. "The People's Daily should strengthen its management work over compiling and reporting its budget and...improve internal controls for expenditure for foreign travel costs and meetings,"the auditor said.

The central People's Bank of China also received censure.

The auditor said the bank's Nanjing branch office under-reported 132 million yuan of income received as local government subsidies, while banknote printers in Chengdu - a unit of the central bank - spent 6.6 million yuan on public relations, entertainment and buying gifts for unidentified parties.

Another banknote printer in northern China ran 5 million yuan over its budget when buying cars for official travel, the auditor said.