Thu, Aug 24, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Former premiers to forfeit benefits

NO FREE RIDE The Cabinet decided to cut off perks to retired premiers, including free water and electricity, a chauffeur and subsidized gasoline and phone bills

By Jimmy Chuang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Former premiers will have to get used to paying their own utilities, telephone and transportation bills after the Cabinet yesterday announced that it would suspend a range of benefits to the retired officials at the end of the month.

"We began talking to former premiers about the suspension of benefits around the beginning of this month. We eventually decided to do this because there is no law to justify their preferential treatment," Cabinet Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) told a press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting in Taipei yesterday morning.

Cheng said that the Cabinet's decision to cancel the preferential treatment, which included subsidized gasoline, transportation and cellphone bills, a driver and free utilities, of former premiers came amid public concern after former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) gave up his Cabinet-employed driver a few days ago.

Hau's decision was widely covered in the local media, and some have described it as a move to bolster his son Hau Lung-bin's (郝龍斌) campaign effort ahead of the Taipei mayoral election.

Cheng said that although the Cabinet was not legally bound to extend preferential treatment to former premiers, it was an established practice to take care of them upon request, and that the benefits ceased upon the former official's death.

Among the nation's former premiers, only Tang Fei (唐飛), Yu Shyi-kun and Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) never filed any request for these benefits, Cheng said.

Meanwhile, a group of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers yesterday accused three former premiers of enjoying unjustified benefits under the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government, and demanded that they return the benefits to the national coffer.

"[The benefits] constitute ill-gotten gains, as there is no law or regulation entitling retired premiers to preferential treatment. The retired DPP premiers never applied for such treatment," DPP Legislator Yu Cheng-tao (余政道) told a press conference.

DPP lawmakers said they they were addressing the issue at this time to clarify the impression created by a recent string of corruption allegations involving President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) aides and family members that the DPP was a corrupt party.

"The recent corruption allegations against Chen might create the false impression that the KMT is free from corruption when it is not," Yu said.

DPP lawmakers said that the government has spent NT$28.16 million (US$862,570) on benefits for former premiers Lee Huan (李煥), Hau Pei-tsun and Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), excluding the money spent in paying for their water and electricity bills.

Taking Lee as an example, Yu said his preferential treatment included paying for 600 liters of gasoline per month, telephone bills of up to NT$3,000 per month, free water and electricity, as well as having a personal driver.

"It has been 207 months since Lee retired, and the government has spent NT$12.5 million on his preferential retirement benefits," he said.

Yu described the preferential treatment as irrational and unnecessary, saying that even taxi drivers probably didn't use 600 liters of fuel in a month.

Whene asked by reporters why the DPP government didn't suspend the preferential treatment after assuming power in 2000, DPP lawmakers said that the government had been unaware of the preferential treatment until now.

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