China complains government building ban being flouted

BEIJING Thu Dec 5, 2013 10:25pm EST

Workers install scaffolding at a construction site in front of residential buildings during a hazy day in Shanghai November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song

Workers install scaffolding at a construction site in front of residential buildings during a hazy day in Shanghai November 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song

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BEIJING (Reuters) - A ban on the construction of new government buildings in China is not being enforced effectively, the government said on Friday, ordering a new crackdown to ensure promises are kept to rein in extravagance and pervasive corruption.

Numerous scandals in recent years have centered on excessive expenditure on new government buildings by officials, often in poverty-struck inland regions.

Some local governments have embezzled poverty-alleviation and disaster-relief funds to build themselves offices and other facilities, sometimes with dazzling opulence.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made fighting graft and extravagance a key platform of his new government, seeking to calm public anger over waste and corruption by government officials.

In July, the government ordered a five-year suspension of the construction of new official buildings.

The central government said in a statement on its website that the campaign - which also includes cutting official spending on cars, entertainment and foreign travel - had achieved "initial results", but not across the board.

"Some places or government departments have not achieved obvious results and have not dealt with problems in a timely manner," it said.

"There have even been cases of continuing approval for and construction of government buildings, which has seriously affected the image of the party and government leading to a strong reaction by the public," the statement added. It did not provide details or examples.

Similar orders in the past to rein in construction of over-the-top government buildings have had little apparent effect, partly due the long-existing problem of enforcing Beijing's edicts in vast and populous China.

The latest statement said that people who approved such projects would be held accountable and punished.

"Relevant departments must seriously fulfill their responsibilities and earnestly strengthen checks on the approvals process," it added.

Those who break the rules would be named and shamed in public.

Last month, the government said it would seize and auction off official buildings which had gone up without permission.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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