The detention of Financial Supervisory Commission member Lin Chung-cheng (林忠正) on Nov. 1 severely damaged the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government's reputation again. The government must now show its determination to rectify systemic problems by passing new and amending existing legislation, while establishing necessary agencies to enforce them. Here are a few suggestions.
First, the government should establish a truly independent anti-corruption agency. Legislators should stop finding excuses to block the draft bill in the legislature's Procedure Committee.
Second, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) should nominate new candidates for the Control Yuan. The agency is responsible for overseeing the executive branch and impeaching and punishing officials. It is in charge of handling officials' declarations of political donations, personal assets and conflicts of interest. However, it has been paralyzed for months.
Third, the government should hasten the passage of the lobbying bill and the political party bill. The former aims to prevent major companies from using their economic power to gain political power, thereby amassing more economic power. Only with fair and open lobbying channels can the actions of officials and legislators become more open and transparent and "black gold" politics be avoided.
The political party law aims to promote fair competition among parties and the development of party politics. It also regulates party activities, for example by restricting parties from operating businesses or raising funds.
Fourth, legislators should serve full-time and be banned from holding other jobs to avoid any conflict of interest. The Legislators' Conduct Act (立法委員行為法) should be revised to stipulate that lawmakers avoid conflicts of interests when reviewing bills, during negotiations, or when serving as committee conveners. They should be forbidden from holding positions in private firms.
Fifth, the government should amend the Public Officials' Conflicts of Interest Prevention Act (公職人員利益衝突迴避法), the Act on Property Declaration by Public Servants (公職人員財產申報法) and the Political Donations Law (政治獻金法). The penalty for government employees stipulated in the prevention act is insignificant. The property declaration act should expand the scope of the required declaration, add articles concerning the pacing of assets in trust funds and increase penalties.
As for undeclared or rapidly increasing assets, the authorities in charge should take the initiative to launch an investigation. The donations law should force candidates to set up special accounts for donations. Party donations to candidates should also be limited to ensure fair competition.
Sixth, there should be transparency of information. Openness and transparency are the essence of democracy. Clear information can reduce public uncertainty and reduce motives for lobbying, bribery and manipulation of those in power. Transparent government information can also increase the public's understanding of public affairs, and therefore promote political participation.
In addition to the completeness of laws and systems, the determination of politicians is important. I would like to call on all politicians to face squarely the people's discontent with corruption. Every party has vowed to crack down on corruption, but the draft of the proposed sunshine bill has been repeatedly blocked in the Procedure Committee.