Sat, Jul 21, 2012 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: AAC still more bark than bite

The Agency Against Corruption (AAC) turns one year old today and is celebrating the moment by hosting a running event at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. One hopes there is no significance in the agency encouraging people to run.

There is certainly no link between the agency’s goals and hosting this type of sporting event, as many critics have pointed out. They would like to see something like a score card of the agency’s achievements so far. The agency would not likely rack up a great total, given that the biggest corruption scandal in recent years only came to light after one of those allegedly involved in the corruption went to the media, leaving the agency looking clueless.

So, what exactly has the agency achieved?

In August last year, it made headlines after legislators accused it of targeting them for carrying out their duty to lobby on behalf of their constituents. Little more was heard on this front. The agency also launched an investigation of the director of the Keelung Customs Office along with six customs officials on suspicion of profiteering.

In November, it arrested two National Palace Museum employees on suspicion of stealing digital images of museum artifacts and selling them to Chinese companies.

Then, in May, it announced an investigation into a 2007 public bid that Taiwan Power Co held for the construction of parts of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), that possibly violated the Government Procurement Act (政府採購法).

Later that month it arrested 10 police officers from different units on suspicion of fabricating documents for car accidents to defraud insurance companies.

The agency also drew complaints after it distributed a pamphlet to public school teachers that included a warning not to attend graduation banquets over concerns that a conflict of interest could emerge.

Last month it said Chu Shao-hua (朱少華), then-chairman of state-run oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan, was being investigated for corruption over a suspicious relationship with a private contractor. A few days later, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said Chu was retiring at the end of the month.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) announced the formation of the agency last year after a major scandal involving several High Court judges shook the public’s confidence in the judiciary and finally forced both Ma’s and the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) hands after years of blocking previous attempts to establish such an institution. Ma maintained that the very formation of the agency would help deter public servants from engaging in corrupt activities. Unfortunately, he was not being fatuous.

However, since the agency does not have the authority to carry out investigations against senior government bureaus or officials and because it falls under the purview of the Ministry of Justice, there have been many concerns that it would not be as effective as Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, or Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. There were also fears that the agency would simply become, as one commentator put it, the “AADPPC,” or the Agency Against Democratic Progressive Party Corruption.

Luckily, that has not proven to be the case, but the scandal involving former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) highlights the gaps in the agency’s brief.

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