The recent amendment to the Accounting Act (會計法) has caused widespread anger across the nation.
Initially, people were angry because the changes to the act meant that an elected representative caught misusing public funds could dodge criminal liability as outlined in the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例).
Subsequently, the anger focused on the omission of a Chinese character in the amendment to specify teaching staff. This created a situation where it was not clear whether the amended legislation would exempt academics from liability.
Regardless of whether the causes for public outrage were the result of the machinations of certain individuals, there are still a number of aspects of the entire amendment process that are both suspicious and difficult to accept.
First, to treat people differently on the basis of their status is a serious violation of the principle of equality.
That is, even though elected representatives caught abusing public funds can no longer be held liable for criminal prosecution for corruption, other public servants, such as academics and researchers, are not exempt from criminal liability for the same actions.
The point is that no individual should be able to misuse funds from the national coffers at the expense of taxpayers.
As such, the latest amendment is clearly biased in favor of elected representatives.
Second, a distinction seems to have been made about whether individuals are criminally liable, depending on when their actions were discovered, with late 2010 being the cut-off point.
This has seriously damaged the public’s belief in the ability of the Criminal Code to uphold justice.
Prior to that time, elected representatives caught misappropriating public funds were not prosecuted for corruption; after that date, they were.
How can the same action — using public money for private ends — be considered perfectly legal before the end of 2010, and yet be transformed, overnight, into the contemptible act of corruption?
Finally, to use stipulations within the Accounting Act to remove criminal liability for corruption is to confuse the scope of different pieces of legislation.
The Accounting Act should be limited to regulations related to accounting matters, and the clauses therein should not have anything to do with deciding the criminal liability of individuals.
Whether or not an individual should be held criminally liable depends on the interpretation of criminal law.
The Accounting Act, the Criminal Code and the Anti-Corruption Act deal with entirely different matters.
How can our lawmakers confuse the scope of different pieces of legislation and use clauses in the Accounting Act to remove criminal liability?
The way the lawmakers create legislation is reckless.
Not only do they lack professionalism, they make no effort to hide the fact that they are protecting their own interests.
It makes it almost impossible to know how to help students make sense of our legal system.
Lu Ying-chieh is a professor of law at National Chung Cheng University.
Translated by Paul Cooper