China's top disciplinary watchdog has announced that it will launch a campaign targeting corruption and malpractice in poverty alleviation projects from 2018 to 2020.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China (CPC) said in a recent press release that over the next three years it will continue cracking down on corruption in poverty alleviation work.
It also urged CPC committees and government at all levels to fulfill the major political responsibility of alleviating poverty, the People's Daily reported last week.
China aims to lift all people above the poverty line - defined as a per capita annual income of 2,300 yuan ($348) - in rural areas by 2020.
"The campaign aims to supervise Party and government officials so that they can properly fulfill their duty in the country's ambitious poverty relief projects," CCDI said in the press release. "Targeting embezzlement and misuse of poverty relief funds, bribery and nepotism will be priorities."
The fact that the CCDI specifically mentioned corruption shows the government's determination to crack down on the problem, which is affecting poverty alleviation work, Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Research Center for Government Integrity-Building at Peking University, told the Global Times.
On Thursday, the CCDI released the names of 27 former and incumbent officials who were involved in eight cases of graft, including the embezzlement of subsistence allowance funds, fraudulently obtaining subsistence allowances or funds for renovating dilapidated houses, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The corruption situation has improved in recent years after the central government drew up policies to ensure that poverty alleviation funds are only used for specified purposes, said Zhu Lijia, a professor of public management at the Chinese Academy of Governance.
However, Zhu added that the government has handed out large amounts of poverty alleviation funds in recent years, making it possible for local government officials to pocket more public funds.
In 2016 alone, the central government spent more than 66 billion yuan on poverty alleviation, according to the Ministry of Finance.
Zhuang said that corruption related to poverty alleviation is more rampant in rural areas where there is less supervision and more poverty alleviation funds are allocated.
In one case in Suining county, Hunan province, the bureau of civil affairs and bureau of social assistance appropriated more than 1.4 million yuan ($212,000) of subsistence allowance funds meant for purchasing electronic appliances for 21 nursing homes from November 2014 to July 2016.
"Poverty alleviation is my top task right now. If I cannot accomplish this goal, my work performance will be marked down, or I may even lose my job," a government official who works in a nationally designated poverty-stricken county in Chongqing told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.
He said that as there are more regulations, corruption has became a big taboo in poverty alleviation work. "Now not only the government is watching us, the people are also watching us. If there are any problems, people will report us and we will be in big trouble as well."
According to the official, cheating is also a major problem in poverty alleviation work. "As we shoulder such heavy and strict tasks, some cheat to save their jobs."
Zhu said that some poverty-stricken areas are less developed and have difficulty collecting precise data.
Both experts and officials agreed that despite these problems, China has made great achievements in poverty alleviation.
Since 1978, China has made great achievements in reducing poverty. From 1978 to 2015, the rural population living in poverty decreased from 770 million people to 55.75 million, said the blue paper co-produced by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.
Based on the international poverty line which the World Bank updated to $1.9 per person per day (in purchasing power parity) in 2011, the world's poverty population went down by 1.1 billion people from 1981 to 2012, the Xinhua News Agency reported in December 2016.