Tue, Aug 01, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Housekeeper's salary under fire

PUBLIC'S SERVANT?Blue and green lawmakers are asking why the Presidential Office has paid for the Chen family's housekeeper since May 2000 and want the money repaid

By Ko Shu-ling, Jewel Huang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Lin Hsiu-jen, known as ``Auntie A-ching,'' is blocked by reporters yesterday as she tries to leave the Taipei apartment where President Chen Shui-bian's daughter Chen Hsing-yu and her husband Chao Chien-ming reside. The Presidential Office came under criticism yesterday for paying Lin's salary since May 2000.

PHOTO: CHIEN JUNG-FONG, TAIPEI TIMES

The Presidential Office came under fire again yesterday, this time for the allegedly improper use of taxpayers' money to pay for domestic help for the family of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) daughter.

The Presidential Office issued a statement yesterday afternoon dismissing the allegation and calling on the media to stop making "unnecessary interpretations" of the matter.

The statement said the president was still the owner of the apartment on Minsheng E Road, where his daughter Chen Hsing-yu (陳幸妤) and her husband Chao Chien-ming (趙建銘) now reside. The president and first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) relocated to the official Yushan Residence on Chongqing S Road in January 2001.

Lin Hsiu-jen (林秀貞) -- better known to the public as A-ching sao (阿卿嫂), or "Auntie A-ching" -- had worked as a housekeeper for the Chen family long before Chen was elected president.

After Chen became president in May 2000, the Presidential Office put Lin on its payroll to serve the president and his wife.

The statement said the Presidential Office continued to pay Lin to work for the president's daughter after he and Wu moved out of the Minsheng apartment because Chen Hsing-yu is considered a member of the first family and Wu also makes frequent visits to the Minsheng residence.

The Presidential Office's statement came in response to reports published in yesterday's editions of the Chinese-language United Daily News and China Times that Lin has been on the Presidential Office payroll for the past six years even though Chen and Wu no longer live at the Minsheng apartment.

The reports said that if it made sense to put Lin on the government payroll, the same rationale could be used to have the taxpayers pay for a domestic helper for the president's mother, who lives in Kuantien Township (官田), Tainan County, and for the president's son Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), who is now in the US with his wife, since they are also members of the first family.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus whip Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) said yesterday that the treasury should be reimbursed for Lin's salary over the past six years.

She also said that those responsible for the situation should be disciplined.

"The president has never been scrupulous in separating his public interest from his private affairs," Pan said.

"It's time for him to rectify the errors that he has been making for six years," she said.

Pressed for a comment by reporters, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said the legality of Lin being on the Presidential Office payroll needed to be clarified by specialists in laws governing personnel administration.

"I am unable to comment on this," he said.

Unusual situation

Meanwhile, Ministry of Audit spokesman Wang Yung-hsing (王永興) said it was unusual for government leaders to have their menial employees work in their private homes.

Opposition lawmakers are not the only ones complaining about Lin's payroll status.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said this new controversy had hurt the party's image. He asked the Presidential Office to clarify the situation immediately.

Tsai said the DPP had no idea that the Presidential Office was paying Lin's salary and that it disagreed with the way the office had handled the matter.

He said that while it was not illegal for the Presidential Office to do so, the public would perceive it as inappropriate.

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