Day after day, tales of corruption and bungling splashed across newspapers, all picked up from loaded entries in the report of China's national auditor – and available for all to see at the National Audit Office's official web site.
State Power Corp, China's electricity monopoly before it was split up in 2002, lost more than RMB 12 billion, or US$1.4 billion (through fraud and mismanagement), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China lost RMB 6.9 billion (fraud), China Life RMB 5.3 billion (irregularities). The revelations coincided with the submission of National Auditor Li Jinhua's annual report to the National People's Congress in late June.
In one of 12 cases investigated at State Power, the audit office found that the former general manager of one operating unit, Huazhong Electric Power Group, awarded RMB 83 million in contracts to his daughter and son-in-law.
At one branch of ICBC, the auditor found that the bank handed out RMB 71.4 million in mortgages to a private individual to speculate on 128 properties. At another, the audit office discovered the bank had advanced car loans worth RMB 96.5 million to four Beijing car dealers, locking in 12% of auto finance cash at the branch.
China Life's transgressions were more prosaic. The auditor found that, apart from his earlier finding that the insurer made investments it was not allowed to make, China Life had evaded taxes by misstating expenses and income. Its predecessor, China Life Insurance, was split into two entities a year ago, the listed company which had Hong Kong and US IPOs netting US$3.47 billion last December, and China Life Insurance Group, its mainland parent.
All this airing of dirty linen was a good thing, a Hong Kong banker said. It suggested authorities were serious about addressing the corruption problem.