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Credit-cards-only rule to fight graftMost expenses can no longer be paid in cash, officials told, as government seeks to curb abuse of public funds and assuage widespread anger over corruptionStaff Reporter10 December 2011Beijing will make the use of official credit cards for major purchases mandatory for officials from next year. The move is a bid to curb the abuse of public money and assuage public anger over corruption.The Ministry of Finance said on its website that 16 categories of business expenses will be required to be settled by official credit cards in order to introduce greater transparency.The categories include business travel and entertainment expenses, petrol and maintenance expenses of official cars, the procurement of office equipment and utility bills.From January 1, all government ministries, departments and party organisations must make credit card payments compulsory for such expenses, the ministry said. Although the official credit card system was introduced in 2007 to counter the lack of transparency in expenses payments, it was not mandatory and not widely implemented.However, cash payments will still be allowed for expenses less than 200 yuan and for other payment categories that cannot be settled by cards.Many mainlanders question officials’ indulgence in lavish banquets, expensive trips abroad, extravagant gifts and the use of official limousines. Professor Hu Xingdou, an economist at the Beijing Institute of Technology, hailed the move as an important step to curb the waste of public funds.However, Hu said a stringent approval process was also required.“Centralised [credit card] payments will help facilitate the supervision of outgoing funds, but the monitoring of how the money is spent should be subject to stringent approval,” Hu said.A sceptical internet user yesterday posted a commentary online: “If people are going to abuse public funds, who would care about the credit card restriction? The key is to identify who are enjoying those privileges and who are approving them.”Beijing has also launched other measures to rein in widespread corruption among officials in recent months. Earlier this year, the State Council ordered 108 central government agencies to report their expenditure details on overseas travel, official cars and banquets - the most frequently cited areas of government spending abuse.Premier Wen Jiabao said in March that all government agencies must cut spending in those three areas and publicise the details of their expenditure.The General Administration of Customs said it spent 503 million yuan (HK$616 million) on overseas trips, cars and banquets last year, with 90 per cent spent on the purchase and maintenance of vehicles.The State Administration of Taxation said it had spent nearly 2.17 billion yuan on overseas travel, cars and banquets last year, with 665.87 million yuan spent on banquets to collect taxes.
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