And Finally

Honest effort

Local government’s new use for 3G

Honest effort

When mobile phones first went on sale in 1983, they were intended to help business executives be more efficient. But the engineers who pioneered them probably didn’t envisage that one day the technology would be used to make Chinese government officials less lazy and corrupt.

However, that is how Youyang County has been using them. Over the past year, it has pioneered a system that combines 3G technology and GPS software to track exactly where its 239 bureaucrats are, reports the Chongqing Economic Times.

Officials are required to keep their phones on 24 hours a day and are subjected to random checks twice a month.

This process sees them called by Youyang’s Party Discipline Office: they are asked where they are, and their location is cross-referenced with the GPS data sent from the phone.

The purpose of the scheme is to crack down on officials playing cards, being entertained in karaoke bars or sleeping at home during work hours, reports the newspaper. So far 82 cadres have been “criticised” after lying about their location, and 22 have been “admonished”. If caught out eight times, officials will be forced to resign.

The phones cost Rmb3,000 each but local residents seem to think the money has been well spent. The Chongqing Economic Times interviewed a restaurant owner in the County’s Taohuayuan Road who said people “applaud” the move, since it helps ensure that government officials “live up to their duties”.

Whether Youyang’s policy will get rolled out across the country is not yet clear. But one place where it may not be required is in Yancheng in Jiangsu province, where the China Daily reckons it has found the nation’s most honest bureaucrat. Meet Zhang Xifei who the newspaper says “was so determined to show how clean he was, that he made a show of returning bribes on a local website”.

Zhang is deputy director in a commercial department. Although the 42 year-old says that he is not a senior bureaucrat, he does meet with representatives of local companies from various industries. And sometimes he “gets money in a plain envelope along with official documents.”

Zhang’s solution? He has created a website where he places postal receipts to show the money he has been offered has been returned.

So far he hasn’t named and shamed the companies concerned, but writes individually to them helpfully explaining that “I don’t accept bribes at work, so please don’t do this again.”

His lofty goal? “Posting the receipts online is a good way to make bribers and other people understand that there are honest officials in China and there will be more of us to improve society and morality.”

If that doesn’t work, plan B could be using those 3G mobiles…

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