Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Uproar over misuse of funds escalates

Uproar over misuse of funds escalates

The uproar over Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) alleged misuse of public funds escalated yesterday as a Ministry of Audit official painted the failure to return surplus funds to state coffers as malfeasance and apologized for upholding Ma's innocence earlier this year.
Meanwhile, more government officials weighed in on the controversy with Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) saying he had followed the proper procedure when claiming special allowances during his tenure as a Taipei County magistrate. Wang Yung-hsin, spokesman of the audit ministry that is responsible for auditing accounts of government agencies, said all public funds should be used on public purposes and failure to do so may constitute corruption.
Wang, who asserted in July that Ma had observed the rules when using a special mayoral fund, offered an apology for failing to detect any irregularities during the ministry's probe into the matter.
He apologized to DPP Legislator Wang Shih-chien in particular for accusing him of seeking to give the ministry a hard time because it refused to cooperate and challenge Ma's integrity.
"I could have used more prudence and humility when returning questions raised by Wang," Wang Yung-hsin said. "I'm not in a position to judge if Ma is guilty of any crime, but all government officials should return to state coffers any surplus funds allocated to them for public functions."
Su, who served as Taipei County magistrate between 1997 and 2004, told the Legislature's interpellation session that he did not recall all the details of how he claimed from the special magistrate's fund but insisted he had observed all the rules regulating the procedure.
The premier said the controversy taught a valuable lesson on Taiwan's democratic development, namely, "to err is human and everyone will be subject to monitoring based on the same criteria."
Su said that the history of special allowances dates back many years and there are about 6,500 beneficiaries including the vice president, local administrators on all levels and school presidents.
"Whether the fund is fair and how it should be used can be reviewed and debated," he said. "It is a positive development that the public expects government officials to follow strict rules when using public money."
Su said he shared Vice President Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) observation that the controversy surrounding President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) "state affairs fund" and Ma's special allowance are both parts of the legacy of the "transition syndrome," or the belief that the auditing and checking of the fund should extend to all who have access to similar allowances.
"It would also be a good thing," the premier said. "It is time that society faces the issue squarely."
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said that he agreed with Lu's view that all questionable funds should be subject to investigation.
Wang related he met with Chen Thursday and the president voiced a desire to review the matter and overhaul related rules if necessary.
Meanwhile, DPP lawmakers continued to demand Ma's resignation, noting he has touted his squeaky-clean image and called on Chen to step down to take responsibility for a string of corruption allegations involving the first family.
DPP Legislator Trong Chai (蔡同榮) said that Ma, who doubles as the opposition Kuomintang chairman, has spared no efforts in finding fault with Chen and his wife, but has ignored his own flaws.
Chai said Ma was trying to shirk responsibility by arguing that he was not aware of his aides claiming from the mayoral fund with other people's receipts.
DPP Legislator Lin Chung-mo said the special mayoral fund case showed that Ma is money-hungry even though he has tried to put on a saint-like image. Lin added that Ma should step down as Taipei mayor and give up on the idea of running in the 2008 presidential election.
DPP Legislator Hsu Kuo-yung said he has suspected Ma engaged in illegal activities because the mayor increased his wealth by NT$4 million (US$121,951) each year and his two daughters were even studying at private universities in the United States. Unless Ma never uses his salary, he cannot accumulate wealth that quickly, Hsu said.


Updated : 2021-09-20 04:25 GMT+08:00