A number of scandals have hit the headlines recently, such as corruption in Department of Health-run hospitals involving doctors, health officials and businesspeople and another corruption case involving Hualien police officers who allegedly received bribes from several illegal gambling venues and video game shops. There are already ongoing investigations into these cases, carried out by the Investigation Bureau under the direction of local district prosecutors’ offices.
However, the establishment of the Agency Against Corruption (AAC) has muddied the waters somewhat, creating a degree of uncertainty as to who is responsible for investigating what, and the danger that the different agencies will end up treading on each other’s toes.
Even if the agency is restricted to investigating cases that arise after it was established, the problem is that different corruption cases are often interrelated. Consequently, different agencies working independently of each other would still find themselves working on the same cases, making it difficult to make optimal use of investigative resources.
The Ministry of Justice has indicated that it wants to delineate responsibility according to the sphere of investigation, with the agency handling internal corruption involving public servants and the bureau responsible for investigating bribery in the public sphere.
This seems a sensible approach, but creates problems of its own. For example, although the agency is to have a staff of more than 200, Item 2, Article 2 of the Organic Act For Anti-Corruption Administration (廉政署組織法) states that only members of the AAC who have judicial police powers can investigate corruption. The current incarnation of the agency is only 80-strong.
Such a small team will not only be unable to deal with the enormous workload involved in investigating all public servants, it will also be severely stretched in dealing with corruption in Department of Health hospitals and the police around the country.
Corruption is never carried out in isolation and often involves collusion, so it is by no means clear how the two spheres can be investigated in perfect isolation.
In the absence of legislation clearly stipulating how this might be done, we could well find that the two agencies, in trying to outshine each other, minding their own business and getting on with their own duties, will still end up treading on each others’ toes, creating a headache for all concerned.
Consequently, the professional powers of the agency staff need to be clarified as soon as possible, to differentiate the roles of the two agencies and make sure they work in concert rather than at cross purposes.
Wu Ching-chin is an assistant professor in the Department of Financial and Economic Law at Aletheia University.
Translated by Paul Cooper