The Control Yuan has caused an uproar by twice voting down a motion to impeach Keelung Mayor Chang Tong-rong (張通榮) after he was convicted for persuading police to release a woman arrested for drunk driving. Even before this case, it was clear that the Control Yuan could not be expected to tackle “tigers” in the central government.
The Control Yuan no longer has the power to impeach the president, since that has been handed over to the legislature. It is obvious that the Control Yuan is also incapable of doing anything about local “snakes” or even swatting a few “flies.”
No wonder even Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien (王建煊) says that if the Control Yuan cannot uphold fairness and justice, it might as well close down. Perhaps Taiwan really would be better off without it.
The Control Yuan suspended its work between 2005 and 2008 because of political deadlock over nominations, and its performance since it restarted has not been impressive. To make matters worse, news reports about the questionable behavior of certain Control Yuan members have further sullied its reputation.
Looking back on those years when there were no Control Yuan members, their absence did not affect the operation of government departments much. The only problem, really, was that complaints and petitions submitted by members of the public began to pile up. As for cases of illegal acts or breaches of discipline by government officials, when the Control Yuan was not there to deal with them, prosecution and judicial departments handled them instead and meted out punishments in accordance with the law.
The Control Yuan’s supervisory work includes applying impeachments, censures and corrections, as well as accepting and processing complaints and petitions from the public and carrying out tours of inspection. It handles civil servants’ property declarations, verifies political donation declarations and has the power of audit. All these functions and powers could be transferred to existing departments of the judiciary and legislature, such as the Judicial Yuan’s Agency Against Corruption. An independent power of audit could be maintained as it is in Europe and the US. Personnel qualified for service in the Control Yuan could be deployed to other government departments, where they could help fight corruption while avoiding accusations of political patronage.
Taiwan has experienced a series of amendments to its Constitution, so there is no need to make excuses about all the fuss and trouble further amendments might cause. What is to stop the government and opposition parties from seriously reviewing and reforming the system?
The nation’s five-branched constitutional system could be changed into a three-branched one. That would make the whole system a lot more transparent and allow personnel and financial costs to be cut. It would raise efficiency and benefit the public by eliminating duplicated functions in executive, legislative and judicial departments.
It might also be possible to revamp the much-criticized system for electing constituency and at-large legislators, and even to amend the Referendum Act (公投法), to make these systems better suit the needs of the public.
That would be a sensible course to take. Rather than always criticizing the Control Yuan for its failings, it would be better to amend the Constitution to abolish the Control Yuan and Examination Yuan. The country and the public would certainly benefit from such a change.
Lu I-ming is a former publisher and president of Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News.
Translated by Julian Clegg