Sat, Nov 18, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's NewsWatch: Have fun at our expense accounts

Pick your way through the public purse with a who's who and what's what of misspent funds. And whatever Johnny did with his allowance, at least he didn't indulge a dissolute pooch.

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

Who would have known that "Reimbursement-gate" would have such legs?

What began as just another serving in a daily diet of dubious charges from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator and top-heavy muckabout Chiu Yi (邱毅) has ballooned into a legal case that threatens the presidentissimo himself.

But last week, the KMT had a stone hurled right through its glass house. Prosecutors, perhaps in need of work for bored junior staff members, questioned Taiwan's No. 1 hair gel consumer and the Great Blue Hope himself -- KMT Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) -- over allegations that he had misused his own "special funds" account.

Pan-green legislators have for months whined that Ma improperly spent public mayoral funds on his dog, Ma Hsiao-jeou (馬小九) -- and that he squirrels away half of his allowance into his personal bank account every month.

Then (say it ain't so, Mr Mayor) one of his staffers admitted to submitting unrelated receipts instead of the real ones, just to make the accounting easier.

And there are even reports that funds may have been spent -- presumably by his mayorship's family members -- on "feminine hygiene products." Can one say "Padgate"?

Well, well, well. Turns out quite a few of the nation's politicians have a big ol' pile of dodgy receipts stashed away in their closets.

But don't think we here at Newswatch are rubbing our hands together gleefully, happy to see the pan-blue camp get its comeuppance.

No, there are far higher stakes at play here.

As it turns out, Chen and Ma's slush fund shenanigans are only the tip of the iceberg. A probe by Newswatch hangers-on has uncovered even more shocking abuses of special funds.

You'd better be sitting down.

* Honorary KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰)

Okay, so technically Lien has been dipping into the KMT's dwindling war chest, not public funds. But given the party's time-honored tradition of looting state coffers, what's the difference? Last year alone, Newswatch has discovered, Lien spent his "special fund" from the KMT on the following:

1) NT$340 on the classic work The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Traitors, purchased at Eslite on April 25, before the chairman's first China tour;

2) NT$280 on Ding Gua Gua fried chicken for his son, Lien Sheng-wen (連勝文), on June 3 after the "divine pig" threw a tantrum over what he said was an insufficient meal allowance;

3) NT$95.3 million to complete construction, which began in March 2004, of a mock-up "Presidential Office," complete with fawning staff and high-tech situation room, deep within the bowels of the KMT's old Renai Road headquarters.

* Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳)

Oh, Jimmy boy, what a disappointment. All the spending from his special fund was for legitimate diplomatic purposes -- Huang's pretty boring. But it reflects judgment on the part of the nation's top diplomat that's spotty, at best:

1) NT$600 on 15 tubes of Heiren ("black person") toothpaste, to be presented as gifts to a delegation from Swaziland as a sign of Taiwan's appreciation of the contributions of diverse ethnic groups;

2) NT$120 on a pirated copy of The Da Vinci Code in a last-minute effort to understand the Catholic faith ahead of a meeting later that day with the Holy See's Taiwan envoy, Ambrose Madtha;

3) NT$300 million on small arms and bullets for delivery to a Middle Eastern contact codenamed Luowang of Arabia in September last year -- in exchange for a 30-minute visit and photo op for the president in a Middle Eastern country that cannot be named for reasons of national security (okay, okay, it was the United Arab Emirates).

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