Chinese authorities recouped 730 million yuan (112.20 million US dollars) in misappropriated funds earmarked for poverty alleviation, a goal with a deadline that comes in less than two years.
Nearly 450 people are liable for offenses related to misused funding following an inspection between March and May this year, announced the Ministry of Finance and the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development on their websites.
The transgressions were found to have spanned over seven years, according to the information made public by the ministry and involved the actions of officials in at least 15 provinces.
Typical forms of abuse of the government funds included fabricating projects and making inflated budget claims, embezzlement and misappropriation, poor decision making leading to waste of funds, as well as using funds to aid ineligible groups and individuals, said the ministries in a review of the cases.
Instances of misuse included one situation in July this year in China's coal belt, Shanxi Province, where 15 out of a total 117 participants in a series of agricultural vocation training courses were aged 70 or above, with the eldest trainee aged 86, retired and unqualified to take part.
Another example of poor decision making led to the squandering of nearly 23 million yuan of poverty aid funds when local government of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region elected to help out farmers by encouraging guinea fowl farming.
Local authorities bought over 1 million guinea fowl chicks and distributed them among 27 thousand impoverished households, where over half of them quickly perished, unable to survive the arid climate. And lacking logistics and a significant market, the birds were soon consumed by the farmers, bringing them little substantial poverty aid.
In an urgent drive to entirely eradicate poverty for the 70 million living below that national poverty line of roughly 1.25 US dollars a day by 2020, the nation has nearly doubled the sum allotted for poverty alleviation to 161 million yuan in 2017. Approximately over 90 percent of the funding in 2017 was designated for spending in farming, forestry and aquaculture.
The government bodies reiterated that there is a "zero tolerance" attitude towards misappropriation of poverty relief funds, and would not let similar cases rest.