Sat, Mar 23, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Legislature to probe NSB secret funds

NEW COMMITTEE A 23-member panel will be established to investigate the bureau's special funds, but when it will begin work remains undecided

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Legislative Yuan decided yesterday, based on an inter-party consensus, to set up a 23-member investigative committee to probe the secret accounts set up by the National Security Bureau (NSB) outside the government's budgetary system.

But it remains unclear as to when the committee will officially be established and start operations.

While the KMT and PFP want to see the committee get going as soon as possible, the DPP and TSU prefer to wait until legislation crucial to the protection of state secrets has been passed.

According to Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), the committee's membership will be based on each party's representation in the legislature, with the DPP entitled to nine seats, the KMT seven, the PFP five and the TSU two.

The opposition first proposed setting up the investigative committee in January, following the PFP's allegation that the NSB had put the surpluses from its annual budgets into a special fund in order to bypass the legislature's supervision.

Legislative caucus leaders had twice negotiated about forming such a committee before yesterday, but on neither occasion was a consensus reached, largely because of the DPP's disapproval of the proposal.

Calls from the KMT and the PFP for the establishment of the investigative committee escalated after media reports on Wednesday about the bureau's secret funds.

Wang Tuoh (王拓), chief executive of the DPP legislative caucus, said the caucus decided to endorse the proposal yesterday in order to avoid a "confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties."

The DPP's compromise was made in exchange for a concession from the KMT and the PFP in the dispute between the legislature and the Executive Yuan over how to solve a NT$68.5 billion shortfall in the fiscal 2002 budget.

DPP caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said the caucus will meet soon to select its representatives to the new committee and at the same time push for the enactment of an intelligence supervision law and national intelligence law.

Lo Chih-ming (羅志明), deputy convener of the TSU caucus, said his group will not take a substantive role in the investigative committee until such laws are passed, for fear that the PFP will take advantage of its access to the committee to leak state secrets.

The TSU has accused the PFP of leaking confidential NSB files to Next magazine.

Lo suggested that strict qualifications be set on members of the committee, especially in regards to their allegiance to the country.

PFP caucus convener Diane Lee (李慶安) said that not participating in the committee would be the right thing for the TSU to do, in order to avoid a conflict of interests.

"Former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) alleged embezzlement is exactly the point of our investigation," Lee said.

The former president is considered the spiritual leader of the TSU.

Also yesterday, a group of lawmakers led by independent Sisy Chen (陳文茜), the PFP's Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) and the KMT's Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) announced that they will push for constitutional reforms to grant the legislature the power to conduct oversight hearings and require the production of documents from the necessary government agencies and officials.

The lawmakers argued that these powers will strengthen a system of checks and balances and will help prevent government corruption.

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