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Auditors Track Quake Relief Goods, Funds Against Corruption

Chinese authorities have sent nearly 10,000 audit officers to track relief funds and supplies for the Sichuan earthquake in a bid to beat corruption.

The move is the first of its kind in China that cover both the disaster relief and reconstruction periods, in a bid to tackle corruption early on.

The death toll from the magnitude 8.0 quake on May 12 rose to 69,176 as of Wednesday noon, the State Council Information Office said. Another 17,415 were still reported missing.

So far China has received 46 billion yuan (US$6.7 billion) worth of donations from home and abroad and allocated 54 billion yuan (US$7.8 billion) of government funds for quake relief efforts.

"Unlike before, the auditing at the very beginning will help find corrective measures to any loopholes timely," said Ren Chengyi, deputy commissioner of the National Audit Office (NAO) in Sichuan.

"This might become the longest auditing, as it would last through the estimated eight-year-long post-quake building period," said Yang Hengtian, an official with the NAO's Yunnan branch.

The government is auditing 18 ministry-level agencies, 240 provincial-level and 2,500 county-level organizations all across the country.

Auditor General Liu Jiayi has ordered the tracking of donations and funds wherever they go, from provincial capitals, smaller cities, to residents in remote villages.

After opening a hotline and an email box on May 26, the NAO receives each day on average 40 emails and 70 phone calls on reports of corruption in handling out relief funds and goods.

These helped uncover the first three corruption cases published last Thursday. The three cases involved the illegal use of 300,000 yuan (US$43,600) of quake relief funds.

Following Thursday's move, the NAO pledged it would publish auditing results every month to open them to public scrutiny. (US$1=6.8823 yuan)

(Xinhua News Agency June 19, 2008)

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