The Control Yuan needs reform to battle graft

By Lee Shen-yi 李伸一  / 

Fri, May 30, 2008 - Page 8

The Papua New Guinea diplomacy scandal is still raging and the whereabouts of NT$1 billion (US$32.8 million) in government funds remain unknown. This is a classic case of dereliction of duty and illegal conduct on the part of public servants. However, committee members of the Control Yuan, who are needed to enforce rules of conduct, remain absent.

The Control Yuan has been out of action for more than three years. There is now a backlog of 40,000 petitions from members of the public and more than 1,000 cases that urgently require investigation. Government agencies have enjoyed a long period without supervision; this has allowed officials to get away with improper behavior.

During the later stages of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government rule, the Control Yuan went into hiatus amid demands for reducing the five branches of government to three, public misunderstanding of the Control Yuan’s performance and the legislature’s refusal to pass nominations to the Control Yuan committee.

However, a crisis can also be a turning point: President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), who supports protecting and enforcing the Constitution, has assumed office, which will likely lead to new nominations and the Control Yuan resuming operations.

For members to properly exercise their duties in building corruption-free government, the Control Yuan should be retagged as the top anti-corruption agency, which would require legal and constitutional amendments. The following are suggestions in this regard.

The term of office for committee members should be extended to eight years, with no second term, and with re-election for half of the members every four years. The president should also have the right to nominate members. Not having second terms would ensure that members would not act out of self-interest and would exercise their duties independently. Elections every four years would provide continuity and help ensure that the Control Yuan will never again be idle.

The range of people subject to investigations should be limited and the number of committee members reduced. Only civil servants, political appointees, military officials and government enterprise employees of senior rank should be subject to investigation. Public servants and others of lower rank could be investigated by their superiors and punished according to personnel regulations; in serious enough cases the matter could be transferred to the courts.

As the number of those subject to investigation decreases, committee members could focus on senior public servants and thus no longer be criticized for wasting time and resources on inconsequential matters.

Further, this would allow a proportional decrease in the number of committee members.

The Control Yuan should have the right to investigate bodies other than the Cabinet, such as the judiciary and the Examination Yuan. During investigations the Control Yuan should receive assistance from the Ministry of Audit when requiring information on personnel.

The Control Yuan should have the right to handle all cases involving human rights protection, and during investigations it should have the right to conduct searches and other necessary measures, as well being able to direct other agencies when investigating administrative cases.

It is a shame that the benefits of the Control Yuan are little known, especially as more than 120 countries have similar supervisory mechanisms. We eagerly anticipate resumption of operations, as well as legal and constitutional amendments redefining its role.

With this done, we would not be far from realizing disciplined and corruption-free government.

Lee Shen-yi is a former member of the Control Yuan.

Translated by Angela Hong