China slates environment ministry after graft probe

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 10, 2015 6:55 AM

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's main anti-graft body reprimanded the environment ministry on Tuesday for a series of problems, including interference by ministry officials and their relatives in environmental impact assessments.

Environmental degradation is one of China's most serious issues and a very sensitive one too, with thousands of protests every year sparked by concern about pollution, particularly from factories.

Polluting plants like chemical factories and oil refineries are supposed to undergo strict environmental impact assessments before being approved, but the anti-corruption watchdog said the environment ministry was not doing its job properly.

"Some leaders and officials and their relatives poke their fingers into environmental assessment approvals against the rules, or set up companies to contract for environmental assessments to seek profit," the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said after an inspection of the ministry.

Money can change hands in exchange for such approvals, and money for environmental projects was also siphoned away by corrupt officials, the regulator said.

Officials suspected of such behavior would be handed over to the Communist Party to be dealt with, it added.

The watchdog's investigation was meant to show "the party's great concern about environmental protection work", it said.

President Xi Jinping has warned that corruption was a threat to the Communist Party's survival and he has vowed to go after powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies".

Officials have fanned out across government departments and major state-owned firms in recent months to root out corrupt officials and rectify problems.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Judy Hua; Editing by Robert Birsel)