The legislature has passed the third reading of Article 99-1 of the Accounting Act (會計法), decriminalizing the abuse of special allowance funds by government chiefs prior to 2006. This decision finally puts an end to the conflict over the special allowance funds, enabling government heads from both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to avoid legal proceedings. In addition to the judicial cost and the scope of the legal processes surrounding the special allowance funds — in which, among others, former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) have been implicated — it is clear that the legal proceedings stemmed from fighting between the KMT and the DPP.
The controversy began in 2006 after Chen was accused of abusing the state affairs fund, after which the pan-green camp accused Ma, then mayor of Taipei, of having misused the special allowance fund. Ma was the first to be charged and although he was later acquitted, his secretary Yu Wen (余文) was convicted.
To facilitate their use, the utilization and reporting procedures for special allowance funds were quite lax. The result of the conflict between the government and the opposition was that the National Audit Office had to tighten its administrative procedures, while the judiciary had to provide clearer legal parameters. Hundreds of former government chiefs were investigated and almost everyone seemed to be guilty.
This newspaper has on several occasions suggested that the controversy is the result of ambiguous legislation and not of government chiefs engaging in corruption, and that both parties should work together to amend the law to resolve the issue so that we can avoid wasting judicial resources and stoking public discontent. However, the two sides have continued to attack each other, delaying a resolution. Now that a decision has finally been made, it is a matter of justice delayed, a delay that has cost our society a great deal.
Although the controversy has now been legally resolved, this solution only resolves the problem for some of the government chiefs concerned. It does not include the state affairs fund or the service subsidies for village and borough wardens, which are of the same nature. This means the dispute remains unresolved and that a good thing has not been taken to its natural conclusion. Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator Yen Chin-piao (顏清標), who has been indicted on suspicion of using the service subsidy to pay for entertainment bills during his time as Taichung County Council speaker, boycotted the amendment procedure. Although it might be difficult to accept his reasons, he does have a point. In addition, Chen is mired in a neverending legal process over the state affairs fund, while former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and former presidential office secretary-general Mark Chen (陳唐山) and others are also mired in related lawsuits. There have been comments among observers implying that this selective relaxation of rules is intended to pave the way for the selection of a KMT vice presidential candidate by removing legal obstacles.
After the amendment to the Accounting Act was passed, Ma sent a telegram to Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) to express his gratitude, saying that further amendments aimed at widening the decriminalization move could be discussed. Any future amendments should follow one principle: Abandon any political prejudice or interests and apply the same standards when looking at expenses of the same nature. Regardless of whether it is the president’s state affairs fund, the special allowance fund for government chiefs, or the service subsidy for village and borough wardens, a decision should not be made based on partisan concerns and should not favor only top officials while excluding those at the local level or the president.