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See-through mechanism for officials

[ 2009-05-31 10:52]     字号 [] [] []  
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See-through mechanism for officialsIn an interview with China Daily published yesterday, a professor from the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee said that government and Party officials found responsible for major accidents should never be promoted again "unless they make extraordinary contributions to society in their new positions."

The "expert on government regulations" made the remark while responding to the recent revelation of a series of cases in which disciplined and sacked officials were moved to different places to continue in their posts or even be promoted. Media reports about the cases have aroused public outcry.

The scholar's suggestion that the officials "should never be promoted again" sounds much too conclusive. One cannot rule out the possibility that the disgraced officials are of good nature, and that there was some element of fortuity in their role in the accidents.

Take for example Meng Xuenong, the former governor of Shanxi province that is recurrently stricken by coalmine accidents. He was appointed to the post in January 2008 only to be discharged in September the same year after the collapse of a coalmine that killed 270 people. Internet citizens called him "the most unlucky official". Earlier, in 2003, he had been sacked as the mayor of Beijing for the failure to deal adequately with SARS immediately after its outbreak in the city. This was just two months after he was promoted to the position.

See-through mechanism for officials

I am not defending him against the decision of the central authorities to disqualify him. It is definitely a welcome practice to hold the highest official responsible for a major accident in his/her jurisdiction. At the same time, it should not be made absolute that an official would never be promoted once he made a mistake. It all depends on how much responsibility he/she actually had in the matter and if he/she is really bad or corrupt in a moral sense.

In fact, the public was infuriated over cases of disciplined officials continuing their career in a different place because of two reasons: First, many of the officials involved in the cases were corrupt; second, re-appointment of the officials was done by keeping all concerned in the dark.

Re-appointment by itself is not the problem. What deserves more attention is the process of these officials being moved and placed elsewhere. If the processes were open to public scrutiny, corrupt officials would never have the chance of being re-appointed; and, those sacked merely for dereliction of duty would be scrutinized by the public before being promoted. The point is that the authorities never publicize the process.

The promotion of an official with an undesirable record, however, should be conducted in a more transparent way, because these officials have lost public trust. There should be convincing evidence that they have made up for their mistakes and are qualified for the new jobs. In other words, there must be a mechanism to guarantee that the officials to be promoted are subjected to public scrutiny. This is exactly what China lacks in the management of officials.

"Administrative transparency," as has been advocated by the Chinese central government for many years, is a most effective way to curb officials' corruption. An opaque administration enables abuse of power to advance private interests. We should not rely on "education" alone for persuading officials to be honest and clean. There has to be a mechanism to compel them to act in the interests of the nation and the public.

Transparent administration is such a mechanism.

E-mail: liushinan@chinadialy.com.cn

About the author:

刘式南 高级编辑。1968年毕业于武汉华中师范学院(现华中师范大学)英文系。1982年毕业于北京体育学院(现北京体育大学)研究生院体育情报专业。1982年进入中国日报社,先后担任体育记者、时政记者、国际新闻编辑、要闻版责任编辑、发稿部主任、《上海英文星报》总编辑、《中国商业周刊》总编辑等职。现任《中国日报》总编辑助理及专栏作家。1997年获国务院“特殊贡献专家政府津贴”。2000年被中华全国新闻工作者协会授予“全国百佳新闻工作者”称号。2006年获中国新闻奖二等奖(编辑)。

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