Thu, Aug 30, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Tough steps required to eliminate corruption

By Dan Chan 詹德恩

One of the main reasons the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) won the latest presidential election is that voters hate corrupt regimes. By this, I mean that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would probably have had a hard time getting elected had it not been for the corruption case involving former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in 2008.

However, over the past three months, the corruption scandals surrounding former Cabinet secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世), the Water Resources Agency and the Criminal Investigation Bureau have all involved senior civil servants, which proves how flawed Ma’s anti-corruption policies are.

Taiwan has a number of overlapping anti-corruption organizations. However, these organizations often fail to see eye to eye on many issues, causing low morale. The problem with the Agency Against Corruption is that it has a dual salary system: Only a minority of its staff are dedicated anti-corruption officers with judicial police powers and their salaries differ from the general government ethics staff. In addition, all senior positions are held by prosecutors on a cross-departmental basis. Also, the Investigation Bureau has said that because most investigators handling corruption cases are prosecutors, they should not be handling such cases, and over the past two years the bureau has instead started to focus their operations on national security.

Another major part in stopping corruption is property declaration. The Act on Property Declaration by Public Servants (公職人員財產申報法) states that the Control Yuan and government ethics departments have the right to examine the accuracy of property declarations or unusual changes in declared property. Those found to have made false declarations or who are unable to provide an explanation as to why their property has increased can be fined. If they do not correct these issues, they will be held criminally liable. However, this law has been as ineffective as Article 6 of the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例), which pertains to crimes involving unclear sources of property, resulting in no criminal prosecution. If we lack the appropriate abilities to enforce the law, the law will prove difficult to implement.

The aforementioned investigation methods have had no effect in instances like the Lin case, or the case involving Criminal Investigation Bureau chief secretary Hsu Jui-shan (許瑞山).

The key to stopping corruption lies in prevention. In the US, the Internal Revenue Service uses both a specific-item method and an indirect method to investigate unknown sources of funds of those who avoid tax. Although the indirect method is insufficient to prove that certain funds were used to pay for a certain business transaction, it can prove whether there are any discrepancies between funds used to pay for a certain business transaction and the known source of the funds. This can then be used to determine whether the person in question has an unknown source of funds.

The Examination Yuan should draw up a special clause for civil servants that could be used on those who have been found to have an unknown source of funds. While the actions of such individuals may not necessarily meet the requirements needed to constitute a crime, those unwilling to explain the source of their funds or those incapable of offering a satisfactory explanation should be stopped from being a senior manager or holding other important positions.

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