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Officials Held over Relief Grain Scam

Two officials in Xixiang County, Shaanxi Province, are being detained and interrogated for giving victims of the May 12 Sichuan quake less than their allotted measure of relief grain, local authorities have said.

The grain given to the quake victims was also reportedly stale.

"The initial investigation has shown that the two officials -- Wang Anwu, director of the county's grain bureau; and Zhang Miyou, chief of the bureau's macro business section -- were responsible for giving out grain that was stale and that was less than the allocated amount when sending out relief food supplies to local disaster-hit people," Li Qiyan, director of the Xixiang county supervision bureau, told China Daily on Friday.

On June 13, a posting on the Internet said that residents in the county had received inadequate amounts of relief grain that was mixed with stale supplies.

The local authorities carried out the investigations into the matter soon after.

When the quake hit Sichuan on May 12, 23 townships in nearby Xixiang felt the temblor, and 5,820 people were subsequently hit with food shortages, Li said.

Wang Huimin, deputy director of the county's grain bureau, said the bureau bought 331.3 tons of grain from two local processing plants for quake victims in the 23 townships and released it to them before May 20.

"I did not take part in the grain purchase, so I was unaware of its quality," Wang said.

Wang Jisheng, a farmer in a family of four in the county's Hualu village, received 12 bags of relief rice that should have weighed 10 kg each. But he said they each weighed only 9 kg.

"I also found that the rice was yellow and looked like it had been eaten by moths," the farmer said.

More than 20 procuratorial officials are taking part in the investigations and the local government will "thoroughly" look into the case and severely punish those responsible, Li said.

The local government has also reportedly sent high quality relief grain to the quake victims.

The central government has stressed that local officials are to carry out their duties properly and those found to have broken the law and regulations in disaster-relief work will be severely punished.

In Sichuan, 15 officials were punished earlier this month for not fulfilling their duties in quake relief, the Sichuan Daily reported.

(China Daily June 21, 2008)

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