Ma to be questioned about fund

Kuomintang Chairman and Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will be questioned next Tuesday over his alleged misuse of a "special allowance" fund that is allocated to all county and city chiefs, which his foes hope will hurt his Kuomintang and sideline him as a candidate for the presidency in 2008.
Seemingly unperturbed by the summons, Ma said he has abided by the law in handling the fund. He stressed that he believes in judicial impartiality and thought that the prosecutors' request to question him provided a good opportunity to clearly explain his side of the story.
Ma asserted that while he saw no logic to the allegations against him, he would cooperate with the prosecutors' probe, hoping they could clear him of the accusation as soon as possible.
The mayor has been dogged by Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers, who have tried to draw a parallel between Ma's use of his special allowance fund and President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) alleged abuse of a presidential "state affairs fund."
The two funds, however, are treated differently under administrative rules, and according to the Ministry of Audit, many administrative chiefs around Taiwan have part of the fund remitted directly to their personal account or given to them in cash.
But DPP lawmakers have a different interpretation.
"Ma regarded the sum of money as his personal property. In other words, he indeed pocketed public money," said DPP Legislator Hsu Kuo-yung, referring to the half of the fund for which invoices or receipts are not needed to claim reimbursement of expenses.
Hsu said Ma put that half of the fund into his personal account on a monthly basis and then declared the money as his personal property to the Control Yuan.
DPP Legislator Hsieh Hsin-ni contended that most importantly, Ma used those funds to cover personal expenses, such as on his pet dog named "Ma Hsiao-jeou," rather than public affairs. Ma has previously explained that the expense for the dog was authorized by a city agency.
Hsieh further accused Ma of using the fund to reward certain officials, without providing any evidence, which she said might also violate the law.
Trying to link Ma's case to that of the president, DPP legislative leader Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) urged prosecutors to adopt the same standards that led to an indictment against first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) when reviewing Ma's use of his special allowance.
Hsu argued that according to the indictment against the first lady, special allowances should not be considered an increase in salary given to administrative heads, which he said Ma did when declaring the funds deposited into his private account as his own.
"Ma Ying-jeou must be indicted on corruption charges," insisted Hsu.
Under KMT disciplinary rules, once a party member is indicted for corruption, he or she will be expelled from the KMT.
It is widely speculated that Ma's aides are worried that if Ma is indicted over the case pertaining to the special allowances, the KMT could not nominate Ma as the candidate in the 2008 presidential election.
KMT legislative caucus whip Tsai Chin-lung noted that the mayoral special allowance case might have become a political problem instead of a pure legal case.
People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), a independent candidate in December's Taipei mayoral race suggested he had more dirt on the mayor.
"(In addition to the case,) I know there are still other reasons or problems that might force Ma not to participate in the 2008 presidential election," Soong said, without naming any of them.
Soong further emphasized that his party kept what it knew to itself out of consideration for the big picture.
The PFP believed that the special allowance case should not shift the spotlight from the corruption charges linked to the president and first lady.
Meanwhile, Taiwan Solidarity Union Taipei City mayoral candidate Clara Chou said that if Ma is indicted for alleged misuse of the special allowance, "he should drop out of politics forever."