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Reform of 'special allowances' law urged

Change to legislation could be solution to current dispute, Wang and Su suggest

Reform of 'special allowances' law urged

Premier Su Tseng-cheng and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday agreed that the controversy surrounding the usage of special allowances allocated for administrative heads could be solved by amending related laws.
Kuomintang's legislative caucus also said it wouldn't oppose any attempt by the executive branch to close legal loopholes in the rules that regulate the usage of special allowances.
President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on Friday noted that controversies over his use of the state affairs fund and administrative heads' use of their special allowances are political issues rather than legal ones, and suggested they could be resolved by revising related laws.
Echoing the president, Su yesterday emphasized that he believed the Legislature could reach a consensus on how best to solve the dispute, with Cabinet Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) also noting that the Cabinet will definitely be promoting legislation of its new standards governing the use of special allowances.
To avoid the kind of ruckus that was caused when former Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was accused of using his mayoral allowance for personal items, starting this year the Cabinet has imposed new standards that more clearly regulate the use of special allowances.
The new standards require receipts and invoices for all expenses to be reimbursed from the special allowances, while under the old system only half the expenses needed to be justified by receipts.
Wang expressed his support for amending the laws, stressing that a modification of the law is a practical way to solve the disputes left behind from a different period in history.
Wang said that the special allowance was always considered to be similar to a subsidy allocated for administrative heads, but nowadays he noted that such funds run the risk of being embezzled "unconsciously." In other words, such actions have become so frequent and common that the person doing it may not even recognize it as embezzlement.
Wang emphasized that resolving the issue through legislation is aimed at preventing people who helm government agencies from embezzling rather than saving any one specific person.
The controversy over special allowances affects not only 6,500 incumbent heads and deputy heads of government agencies at national and local levels but also retired heads, said the speaker.
KMT's legislative caucus stressed that it will not resist amendments to laws about the use of special allowances, but insisted that the Cabinet responsible for supervising the use of the special allowance should propose an amendment first.
KMT Legislator Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), who doubles as head of the party's Policy Coordination Committee, noted that the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics under the Executive Yuan formulated the rules governing the use of the special allowances and has the authority to explain the rules in the event of any related controversies that may arise.
The lawmaker added that the KMT won't oppose any draft revisions put forward by it to address legal issues stemming from the rules.
Noting that there are incumbent and former holders of senior offices who might have run afoul of the law over the usage their allowances according to the "defective" rules, Tseng said any revision to the rules should be applied retroactively, so former officials will be cleared of any possible violations.
However, Tseng said, the special state affairs fund budgeted for the president's discretionary use is different from other officials' special allowances, adding that the KMT caucus won't support any attempt to revise the law to preempt criminal charges against first lady Wu Shu-jen, presently embroiled in a case involving her alleged misuse of the state affairs funds.
On the other hand, some ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers insisted that any revisions made should not be retroactive because the controversies involving state affairs fund, as well as special allowances, arose from an imperfect system rather than from evil intentions.
Cheng indicated that there needs to be further negotiations between the ruling and opposition parties to decide whether or not new laws should be retroactive.


Updated : 2021-05-08 02:48 GMT+08:00