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Yunnan recalls incompetent officials from destitute villages

GPIG by Ai Yang,September 26, 2017 Adjust font size:

In southwest China’s Yunnan Province, there are 37,257 poverty alleviation officials living in 4,277 poor villages. They come from provincial-, prefecture-, county-, and township-level Party and government offices and public institutions. But ensuring that such a large poverty alleviation workforce is managed and evaluated effectively has proven to be no simple task.

A recent provincial poverty alleviation conference in Yunnan has stipulated that incompetent alleviation officials will be recalled and barred from promotions.

Since Yunnan announced in April 2016 its plan to remove poverty alleviation officials from their posts in poor villages, a total of 1,117 people have been recalled.

A few days ago, Xiangyun County, of Yunnan’s Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, released its performance evaluation results for poverty alleviation officials from January to June 2016. It decided to recall five individuals dispatched from five institutions, for reasons of incompetence, negligence, poor performance, negative influence, and health concerns.

The announcement has sent ripples through the village, with many officials now feeling much more palpably the pressure of accountability.

The administrative entities responsible for the shakeup have outlined 10 circumstances under which officials must be recalled from their posts: incompetence, negative influence, negligence, health issues, and unsatisfactory performance. They have also stipulated that five officials who rank the lowest among the quarterly county, city, or district poverty alleviation evaluations will be called back.

Upon being posted in poor villages, these poverty alleviation officials are almost entirely cut off from the work of their original institutions. They are required to live in the villages and to work no fewer than 50 days at their posted locale for every three-month period. The supervising body conducts an inspection twice a month to oversee their working progress and pays random visits to the poor villages to check in on these officials. The supervisory team recalls those who are incompetent, unfit, or who fail to perform, thereby ensuring that the team of poverty alleviation officials works with efficiency and maintains a good reputation.

In early July, Pingbu Town of Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture released the second-quarter performance evaluation of their poverty alleviation team. The team of 30 officials were rated for their work over the previous six months regarding their attendance, attitude, performance, and competence. Of the 30, a total of 28 received scores of 95 or higher; one received a 64.75, while another received a 30.27 and was recalled.

When word of the recall plan was first released, it received a litany of complaints from the alleviation team members. The main cause of their uproar was the stipulation that the five lowest-ranked poverty alleviation officers in the county, city, and district will be recalled: Mainly, the officials have felt it adds too much pressure, with some believing it to be destructive to morale, given that five individuals will invariably be removed—regardless of how hard everyone tries.

To address this concern, the members of the supervising body explained that the quarterly evaluation was intended to uncover whether any officials posted to villages neglected to show up for work or to truly stay in their respective villages. The supervisory body assured the poverty alleviation team that as long as they worked hard, they would not be removed from their posts, even if they did rank in the bottom five. Essentially, recalls would be handled on a case-by-case basis, with all factors taken into careful consideration.

They further explained that not all recalled officials were incompetent. Some were recalled due to health concerns, while some might be needed at their original public-institution post. On the other hand, depending on the circumstances, recalled officials might receive remedial training, be reprimanded, or be stripped of their titles and replaced altogether.

In Yunnan, there are 93 key destitute counties and area counties yet to be lifted out of poverty. The province has the largest number of poor villages in China and is tasked to lift 4.71 million people out of poverty in the next three years. Each registered poor village has been assigned a poverty alleviation team of 5–10 people. Altogether, there are 37,257 poverty alleviation workforce members living among 4,277 Yunnan villages.

Hua Xinzhi has been assigned to work in the poverty alleviation team in Dacang Village, of Xiazhuang Town in Xiangyun County. “Our role is very special, as we have to coordinate with the Village Committee and the Village Party Branch, promote major poverty alleviation policies, find out information on the poor villagers, as well as help them apply for funds, programs, and resolve conflicts among them. The standard is much higher these days, and the performance evaluation is also much stricter.”

“We’ve really worked very hard. The evaluation scores every detail, such as visits paid to poor villagers, work attendance, policy promotion results, and so on. Other than that, we also receive frequent supervision from many authorities such as the discipline inspection commission, the organization department, the inspection team, and the poverty alleviation program. With so much supervision, we cannot afford to slack off in our work at all,” said Hua’s colleague.

Yunnan has introduced three methods to respectively manage, evaluate, and recall poverty alleviation officials in the province. The officials are required to work at least 200 days in their assigned villages each year, and their work attendance is monitored daily. Their promotion and ranking have been directly linked to their performance in the poor villages.

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