Sun, Jan 13, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Rat-catcher needed for the nation

By Lin Terng-yaw 林騰鷂

Late last year, the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced the annual bonuses for employees of state-run companies. The bonuses have been cut from several months’ salary to 1.2 months’ salary per employee.

The entire public service machine, including government agencies, state-owned banks and businesses and public foundations, is making money at the expense of the state. They are worse than profiteering “fat cats”: It is perhaps more fitting to call them “rats” — state-coffer-robber fat rats.

However, what crimes against the coffers are these robber rats guilty of exactly?

First, they are guilty of failing to do what they are being paid to do. Many administrative bodies, for example those responsible for ensuring safe food, clothing, housing and transportation, seem to be incapable of making sure the law is implemented. The market is awash with potentially harmful products, cities are plagued with jerry-built construction, road hogs are rampant, and the fight against pollution has become a mere slogan; all of which is detrimental to the quality of life of the people living in this nation.

It was recently revealed that the salary of the executive director of the Improper Martial Law Period Insurgency and Espionage Convictions Compensation Foundation (戒嚴時期不當叛亂暨匪諜審判案件補償基金會) was higher than that of the minister in charge of the government department — the Ministry of National Defense — that funded its establishment, and that he has only personally looked into three cases since it was established. Then there are the public foundations and research institutions that hoover up hundreds of billions of New Taiwan dollars with precious little to show for it in terms of research results that can actually be applied.

The second issue with the coffer robbers is the extra money they spend on appointing, commissioning, or contracting out their duties to others. According to the Legislative Yuan’s 2011 annual central government audit overall evaluation report, government agencies have been outsourcing their public service duties to public foundations and have failed to follow accounting guidelines for income and expenditure, or pay surplus revenues to the national treasury.

It is also apparent that the heads of these public foundations, set up with financial assistance from the central government, actually make more money than government ministers, resulting in significant losses for the state coffers.

Every year, an incredible NT$800 million (US$27.6 million) or more is spent on contracting work out, if not on jerry-built roads, then on buildings destined to stand empty and become nothing but mosquito breeding grounds, all at the taxpayers’ expense.

In addition, the Council for Labor Affairs estimates that there are approximately 90,000 temporary workers around the nation, of which — according to the Directorate-General of Personnel Administration — more than 10,000 work for central government agencies.

One must also bear in mind that some departments are reporting lower numbers of temporary workers on their books than they actually employ, and this figure does not include those working for local government agencies. The government, then, is the biggest employer of temporary workers in the country. This means that the national coffers are being drained, and the quality of government services is being affected.

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