China's National Audit Office says 234.7 billion yuan (about $35 billion) in government money was misused or embezzled in the first 11 months of this year.
After the 4 trillion yuan stimulus package was announced last November to keep the economy from tanking, many China analysts already began speculating that a good chunk of that would be embezzled and now the accounting has been done to prove it.
The agency surveyed nearly 100,000 government departments and state-owned companies, resulting in 67 senior officials and 164 others handed over to judicial authorities. About 1,000 are facing disciplinary action.
In addition to money embezzled by officials, some 16.3 billion yuan was wasted in the same period.
It was probably wasted on the billions of yuan in coupons to stimulate domestic demand, or rather local demand. Many areas printed coupons to get people to travel in the region or buy goods, but to little effect.
"Despite some improvement, embezzlement, waste of money and false fiscal reporting still existed in central departments," Liu Jiayi, the country's auditor said at a press conference Monday.
Where did all that public money go? It could partially explain the over 30 million cars that were purchased in China this year, making it the world's No. 1 auto manufacturer and consumer; or the housing bubble in China; but also maybe the most expensive flat in Hong Kong that was sold for HK$439 million ($57 million) to a mainland Chinese buyer? Or the spending sprees in buying foreclosed homes in the United States?
This $35 billion may only be the tip of the iceberg, as this was money misused in central government departments. What about provincial ones?
While embezzlement is not new, the scale is quite high.
And surely right now Chinese citizens are both resigned but also infuriated by this audit.
There are no checks and balances to ensure taxpayers' money is used properly and this is not discovered until after the fact.
The government must crack down harder on corruption and embezzlement because its argument that the Communist Party of China is the country's only legitimate ruler is wearing thinner...