Acknowledging his office's mishandling of the special mayoral allowance, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday apologized for what he called "administrative defects," adding that he would not resign over the matter.
"Although I knew nothing about it and so far there is no evidence to prove [my staffer] pocketed the money, I still need to shoulder administrative, political and moral responsibility for this blemish ... I offer my sincere apologies to Taipei residents," Ma told a press conference at Taipei City Hall.
Yu Wen (余文), a Taipei City staffer who handled reimbursements for the allowance, was found by the city government last month to have substituted receipts for smaller amounts with personal receipts for larger amounts in a bid to reduce his paperwork.
In an attempt to simplify the reimbursement procedure for amounts ranging between NT$10,000 and NT$20,000 -- usually between 50 and 100 receipts each month -- Yu substituted his own receipts for larger amounts for several of the smaller ones, Taipei City Government Secretariat Director Lee Sush-der(李述德) said.
This was not discovered until prosecutors began investigating Ma's use of the special fund, and as a result 3,754 receipts, totaling around NT$800,000, had been "exchanged" in this way since 2003, Lee added.
Ma acknowledged that the case had damaged both his and the city government's reputations and denied shifting the responsibility onto Yu, while saying that he did not need to resign over the matter.
"We did not shift the responsibility onto him to save ourselves. It's the truth, and the prosecutors are investigating the case now ? I don't think that I should resign because I wasn't directly involved in the matter," he said.
Director of the mayor's office Cheng An-kuo (鄭安國), who supervised the allowance reimbursements, offered his resignation yesterday. This was later approved by Ma.
"The situation began before I arrived at the city government, but I did not discover it and failed to prevent it from having such a big impact on both Mayor Ma and the city government. I feel very sorry and I need to take responsibility for this," Cheng told the media.
Yu, on the other hand, was questioned by prosecutors yesterday after the city government's department of government ethics reported Yu's case to prosecutors on Tuesday.
According to Lee, the government ethics department found all of the original receipts in the basement of the city government and the internal investigation found no evidence that Yu had pocketed any of the money.
The government regulations state that half of the mayor's monthly NT$340,000 allowance requires no receipts, while the other half requires receipts for reimbursement.
Of the NT$170,000 portion of the allowance that required receipts, about NT$80,000 was used for rewarding staff members, and another NT$90,000 was spent on public affairs matters.
Ma said his secretaries, drivers and bodyguards received most of the rewards.
Asked to compare this situation with the alleged use of fake receipts to claim reimbursement from the president's "state allowance fund," Ma said while the president and the first lady collected receipts to cover their own expenses, in the city government's case it was only a procedural blemish.
In response to questions from DPP legislators on the amount of money spent on red envelopes for parties and white envelopes for funerals, Cheng said that in addition to the money paid out for the envelopes, there were other related expenses such as flowers and postage.