$3,600 Meals Powered Corrupt Officials at China’s State Grid

March 31, 2015 Updated: April 17, 2015

China’s largest state-run power grid serves nearly 85 percent of the country’s population and generates enormous revenue—enough to for its top executives to serve themselves thousand dollar meals.

Li Ruge, the Party member of the State Grid Corporation, and Xu Peng, and the chief accountant of the company, spent 22,500 yuan ($3600) of public funds on a single meal, according to an investigation report on March 25 by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), China’s anti-corruption agency.

The report announced that the two received serious warnings from the Party, were made to compensate for the meal, and were taken away for investigation.

But a $3,600 meal is nothing for the State Grid Corporation, mainland media Caixin notes. The company, which owns 88 percent of power grids in China and provides power for over 1.1 billion mainland Chinese (out of a population of 1.37 billion), makes over two trillion yuan ($322 million) a year.

Corruption is rampant in the electric utilities company because there’s no one to supervise local branch high executives, and no shortage of people offering gifts and bribes, Caixin reports. But since the anti-corruption campaign started by Chinese leader Xi Jinping and run by Wang Qishan started looking into the energy system last year, a number of high executives within the State Grid Corporation of China have been taken away.

This year, the energy system probe shifted its focus to the Southern Power Grid system, a state-owned Fortune Global 500 company (ranked 115 in 2014) which serves the five major Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou and Hainan.

China’s anti-corruption body announced punishments of over 10 officials at the Southern Power Grid system on March 27 for misappropriating public funding and abusing power to gain personal profits. For instance, director of Zhongshan Power Supply Bureau, Liu Chaohua, used public funds for his personal travels; director of Huazhou Power Supply Bureau, Wang Haobo, abused his position to obtain personal projects and profits; and Ouyang Xiuxu, an executive at Tianzhu Power Supply Bureau, secretly charged customers electricity fees for personal gain.

Guangdong Power Grid, the Southern Power Grid’s largest branch company, has been the hardest hit under the anti-corruption campaign, according to state news media. At least three high executives at the Guangdong Power Grid have been investigated this year, including former director Liao Jianhua, former Party secretary Huang Jianjun, and deputy party secretary Lei Liebo.

Most recently, Qi Dacai, director and deputy general manager of the Southern Power Grid Company, was investigated for “severe violation of discipline,” according to the official website of China’s anti-corruption agency on March 30.

The 51 year-old Party committee member has a doctoral degree from Tsinghua University—unofficially dubbed China’s MIT— and has never left the power grid system of China in his career, according to Qi’s public curriculum vitae.

Although the corruption bureau’s website didn’t say what Qi is being investigated for, he will likely be found to have taken bribes, misappropriated public funds, and abused his position, if the cases of sacked officials are any guide.