Local govts told to improve oversight of public welfare
The central government urged local authorities on Wednesday to improve the living-allowance system and called for more transparency in the implementation process.
Local governments should examine the allocation of allowance quotas more strictly while keeping recipients’ information open so that welfare can be targeted at those most in need, according to a statement released on Wednesday after an executive meeting of the State Council, China’s Cabinet.
Recent audit reports have revealed issues such as poor management, misuse of funds and policy loopholes, which have hampered low-income groups’ benefits, according to the meeting presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.
The meeting urged relevant authorities and local governments to enhance transparency by publicizing the financial status of applicants’ families and verifying the eligibility of those receiving benefits in a timely manner.
It also stressed that social assistance should be combined with medical care, educational aid and housing allowances to help those struggling in poverty in urban and rural regions.
Experts said it is difficult to guarantee fairness in the implementation of public assistance given the lack of supervision and abuse of power in local communities.
“The basic system of allocating poverty- relief fund quotas by local officials should take the blame and be reformed,” said Yang Tuan, a social policy researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“Due to the lack of an examining mechanism, community officials, especially in rural areas, sometimes allocate the quotas to relatives and friends, leaving out those really in need.”
To strengthen audits on funding distribution, Yang said an autonomous cooperative, taking place the function of local governments, should be established in rural areas to manage social allowance.
“Farmers should be more involved in the decisionmaking process of many issues relating to their livelihoods, and the powers of government should be partially delegated.”
However, local officials said creating non-governmental, autonomous organizations remains difficult.
“With most of the young adults leaving their home village to work in cities and towns, the only people left are the elderly and children, who can’t meet their obligations to run such organizations,” said Chen Qiang, a senior offical at the Department of Civil Affairs of Yunnan Province.
Chen said tougher penalties should be imposed on those who misuse funds or quotas.
The meeting also asked authorities to adjust the minimum social allowance standard in accordance with local economic development and commodity price fluctuations.
Feng She gets chickens from a local chamber of commerce, which will buy them back when they are grown as part of a poverty alleviation program in Guofengling, Shaanxi province.