Mon, May 15, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Corruption tops Cabinet agenda

POLITICS The incoming Cabinet has agreed to form a new anti-corruption taskforce with wide-ranging powers

By Jou Ying-cheng and Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Led by Department of Health Director-General Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), second from left, several members of the new Cabinet leave Yangminshan yesterday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

During informal group discussions this weekend, incoming Cabinet officials reached consensus on several important issues for future policies, including the establishment of an Anti-corruption Admin-istration (廉政署).

Minister of Justice-designate Chen Ting-nan (陳定南) advocated the formation of such a body on his appointment.

According to the agreed proposal, the new administration under the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) will combine the current Anti-corruption Department (廉政處), of the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau and the Government Ethics Department (政風司), of the MOJ.

The anti-corruption body will establish branch offices in counties and cities throughout Taiwan.

More importantly, certain officials of the institution will have powers of search, seizure and arrest -- a proposal that has been criticized by several prosecutors and legal academics, who are worried that such a system could be harmful to human rights.

The new Cabinet members also reached a consensus about abolishing the election of township and village chiefs by revising all related laws to allow county commissioners and city mayors to appoint those officials.

Vice Minister of the Interior-designate Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) said: "Putting an end to grassroots-level elections was an important resolution of the National Development Conference (國家發展會議) in 1996," Lee said, "and the proper deadline is 2002 -- the last year of current grassroots leaders terms."

Representatives from all three major political parties, independent politicians and scholars in that meeting all agreed during the conference to abolish grassroots-level elections, partly to reduce the waste of resources, but also because the local administrations are hotbeds of "black gold" corrup-tion.

Minister of the Interior-designate Chang Po-ya (張博雅) was, however, at odds with other Cabinet members over the issue of readjusting administrative regions. Chang said that it was not necessary for the new government to upgrade the standing of any city or county at this moment.

"Whether it is desirable to readjust Taiwan's administrative regions cannot be decided only by the central government," Chang told reporters, "the central government has to learn how to respect local residents' voices."

Taking the Taichung region as an example, Chang said that residents of Taichung City did not like the idea of joining their city with Taichung County to form a single administrative region.

"The most important thing a new government can do is to equally divide all financial resources to give all administrative regions abundant money," Chang said

President-elect Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has already pledged to upgrade Taichung City, Taipei County and Taoyuan County to Special Municipalities, thus allowing these areas more control over tax raising and spending.

While Chang reaffirmed that she was opposed to the consolidation of city and county administrations, she admitted that this was a minority opinion.

Her deputy -- who was also the former spokesman of Chen's campaign office, said that they would try to figure out a working plan as soon as possible.

Other matters on which the incoming Cabinet reached consensus yesterday included include the statutory exclusion of gangsters from participating in elections, the gradual implementation of President-elect Chen's social welfare platform, a reduction in the number of foreign laborers admitted to Taiwan, and a reduction in the length of the working week to 44 hours within two years.

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