Working to rationalize village politics and improve mechanisms for government accountability and transparency, innovators in Maliu Township, Kai County developed what they called a “Working Procedure of Eight Steps” in 1999. According to this procedure, all matters of importance in local politics, including development plans for the town’s economy, rural budgets and accounts, village public service, and welfare, must pass through eight stages before being ratified. These procedures give village representatives the opportunity to canvass public opinion before making decisions on new policies.
Taking a public works project as an example, these eight steps outlined in Maliu’s “Working Procedure” are as follows: the first step is to survey citizens to investigate what they want the new project to achieve. Following this information-gathering stage, officials must hold meetings with village representatives and Chinese Communist Party members to form a tentative agenda for the proposed work. Once the initial group of policy-makers approves this agenda, it must be publicized to gain support in the community. Before beginning construction, officials must receive final public validation by holding an open village meeting to discuss the new plans.
Once the agenda in question has been ratified, a group is selected to lead the engineering and construction of the new project. At least half of this group must be ordinary citizens, who manage the money and goods allocated for the project. Party cadres make up the remaining seats in the group; they are responsible for all the project’s administrative procedures not related to money. Once the leading group has been named, the fifth step of Maliu’s Procedure is to collect family signatures verifying public approval for the new works project. Only after at least 85% of the community’s approval has been received can planners begin construction.
To ensure a fair distribution of village resources among local workers, the next step is to subcontract the project to each household. Once villagers have been employed to begin construction, the village team becomes responsible for organizing and supervising the work. The final step, when the project’s construction is complete, is to publish an account of the results of the project. The leading group’s community representatives are responsible for auditing the accounts and publicizing their findings for review by other village members.
By instituting this meticulous procedure for gaining public approval for local government works, Maliu’s innovators enabled villagers to supervise the government affairs that affect them most directly. The Procedure’s eight stages are all open for public scrutiny, and it clearly assigns responsibility for the completion of each phase of local government processes; it provides a blueprint for government transparency and accountability. This successful partnership between local government and the community has achieved many visible successes: for the past six years, Maliu Township’s government has built 306.8 kilometers of highway, 8 bridges, 180 kilometers of water pipes, and 52 cisterns. They have also successfully repaired the local hospital and established the Maliu Township Junior High School.