Sun, Sep 30, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Waiting for the ‘sunshine’ to come

By Chang Kuo-tsai

In the opening remarks of its briefing on the role of its department responsible for ensuring public servants declare their property, the Control Yuan states quite explicitly that the Act on Property-Declaration by Public Servants (公職人員財產申報法), which was promulgated on July 2, 1993, and came into effect on Sept. 1 that year, is to “promote clean government and proper ethical conduct in government, to remove corruption from the public service and to provide citizens with clean, transparent governance...” Inspiring stuff, but is it enough?

What this means is that, for the past 19 years, it has been a legal requirement that public servants annually declare their finances to the Control Yuan, just as it has been law for them to submit accounts which detail the campaign funds and political donations they receive. The trouble is: How does one know if they have been completely honest when making these declarations?

Former National Fire Agency director-general Huang Chi-min (黃季敏) retired in September 2009. Before doing so, he submitted his finances to the Control Yuan “in compliance with the law.” In his declaration, Huang said he had 3kg of gold and savings amounting to over NT$36 million (US$1.22 million). Recently, his office at Formosa Plastics Group — where he is now a vice general manager — was raided as part of a corruption investigation and 16.5kg of gold bars were found.

A raid of his residence in Taipei’s Xinyi District (信義) uncovered many luxury goods scatterd among clothes and hats. One report said that “in the entrance alone there were 30 or 40 designer bags.”

Credit card records showed that over NT$10 million a year had been run up on the card.

There is clearly a very big difference between the figures Huang submitted “in compliance with the law” and the actual situation.

During the election campaign earlier this year, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) — running against the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), unleashed all the resources at his command, including blanket advertising and droves of campaigners on the ground.

The result? Ma and his vice-presidential running mate, Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), also from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), submitted figures for political donations to the Control Yuan saying they had received NT$446.4 million and had spent NT$444.18 million. These figures compare with NT$756.71 million received and NT$709.85 million spent by Tsai and her vice presidential candidate, Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全).

Is this financial declaration system reliable? Is it effective? It does look like the principle of discretionary evaluation of evidence is being severely tested.

Meanwhile, the public are being taken for fools. That an incumbent candidate — with access to tens of billions of dollars from illicit party assets — spends 40 percent less on an election campaign than the opposition candidate who relied on small donations from supporters just does not make sense, nor does it tally with experience or convention. It does not bear up to even the tiniest amount of scrutiny. Just how much is the Control Yuan in control?

Do you still remember former minister of justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南), known for his “Blue Sky” anti-pollution plan? Chen was all about fighting corruption and cutting waste and contested the position of governor of Taiwan Province with James Soong (宋楚瑜) in 1994.

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