Chinese President Xi Jinping, center reaches out to shake hands with a delegate as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang looks on at right after the closing session of the National People's Congress held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
China’s anti-corruption campaign has netted more than a million officials in the past three years, according to the Beijing government.

A drop in the ocean considering the Chinese Communist Party has 88 million members. Those caught range from low-ranking officials to top ministers, as well as in business and media.

The campaign to end corruption was memorably termed “Catching Tigers and Flies” by China’s President Xi Jinping when he took office in 2012.

As China’s opening of parliament winds down, the approximately 5000 participating deputies and advisers who make up parliament, the largest in the world, will carry out the work set by the ruling party.

Weeding out corruption remains a key focus of the Xi regime, with the announcement of a new National Supervisory Commission which will combine several graft-fighting bodies.

The commission will eliminate duplication, with the power to supervise, question and detain all civil servants, party cadres, military personnel, judges and prosecutors, executives of state-owned enterprises, university staff and doctors and nurses of state hospitals who are suspected of corruption.

The campaign puts the total number of officials caught in the crackdown at more than 1800, including 182 “tigers” ( deputy provincial or deputy ministers). Of those, 1130 officials have been arrested, expelled from the Community Party.

But according to a report by Transparency International this week nearly three-quarters of the people surveyed in China believed corruption had increased over the past three years, suggesting people did not see the offensive on corruption working.

According to Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 the country ranked 79 out of 176 countries and it scored 40, with 0 as highly corrupt and 100 as clean.

“Governments must do more to deliver on their anti-corruption commitments. Millions of people are forced to pay bribes for public services and it is the poor who are most vulnerable,” warned Jose Ugaz, chairperson of Transparency International .

According to website ChinaFile, sentenced government officials in China were responsible for embezzlement, stealing, taking gifts or otherwise misusing more than six billion yuan, almost a $1billion.

Sentencing documents spelt out shenanigans including an official who purchased R500000 worth of jade jewellery using public funds, a municipal official who used public funds to support three mistresses and another who tried to hide his embezzled millions in his mistress’s gardening company.

There has been speculation on whether the campaign has also been used by Xi to purge political rivals, which he has denied, or merely holding those in power to account. Only time will tell.

Some observers have said the campaign should be run independent of the ruling party. They argue, if the party is above the law, who polices the party?

In South Africa the Office of the Public Protector is deemed independent and an external state institution. Former public protector Thuli Madonsela did a sterling job investigating misconduct in state affairs.

But this did little to sway the public’s perception of corruption in the country. According to Corruption Perceptions Index 2016, South Africa ranked 64 of 176 countries. It scored 45 out of 100, slightly higher that the paltry global average of 43, indicating corruption was endemic in many public sectors.

Ugaz warned that in too many countries, “people are deprived of basic needs while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity".

All eyes are on Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who has been asked to investigate the relationship between Cash Paymaster Services and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

The company’s contract to distribute more than 17million welfare grants was extended by 12 months by the Constitutional Court on Friday. This is after the company’s contract with South African Social Security Agency had been declared invalid by the Constitutional Court in 2014, but allowed to run until the end of this month so as not to disrupt grant payments.

Once again it is the livelihood of the poor at stake.

* Melanie Peters is the Live Editor of  Weekend Argus. She is on a 10-month scholarship with the China Africa Press Centre. Instagram:

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