Beijing: China has initiated legal action against 250 officials, including 36 leading ruling party members, for economic offences worth over USD 538 million.

Cases involving 36 senior officials and 214 others were transferred to judicial or discipline authorities in 2011 for further investigations and punishment after a national economic accountability audit.

The auditors found that about USD 538.6 million were involved in violations of relevant economic rules that officials should be held answerable for, a statement issued at a national auditing work conference said.

Economic accountability audits evaluate the performances of leading Party and government officials and leaders of state-owned enterprises (SOE).

Such audits include management and utilisation of public funds, national resources, state capital and social funds.

In 2011, the auditing authorities nationwide have audited 26,000 leading officials at various levels, including 35 at minister level; Chinese official news agency quoted the statement as saying.

The auditing authorities will strengthen the audit of the Party and government officials' performance in the fields of fiscal management, energy saving, social construction and environmental protection, the statement said.

And for the leaders of SOEs, the audit work will focus on their performances in decision making, investment and asset management, it said.

"China will strengthen special audit on social security funds, construction of affordable housing projects and adjustments on the planning of primary and middle schools in rural areas," said Liu Jiayi, the head of the National Audit Office (NAO).

Liu said the NAO will enhance supervision on the use of power and public funds and make further efforts to protect the people's interest.

More than four lakh leading officials have been audited since China introduced economic accountability audit system in 1999.

Further, according to the conference statement, the audit authorities have audited 1.20 lakh units across the country and handed over 1,100 cases, involving 1,300 people, to the judicial and discipline authorities over the first 11 months of 2011.

The auditing work will help to advance the economic construction, safeguard the national security, improve social management and promote social harmony, Liu said.