Fri, Nov 17, 2006 - Page 1 News List

City accused of obfuscating Ma issue

COVER STORY DPP legislators said that Taipei City officials were coming up with explanations meant to confuse the probe into the mayor's special allowance fund

By Shih Hsiu-chuan, Mo Yan-chih and Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers accused the Taipei City Government yesterday of fabricating stories to obfuscate any evidence of embezzlement from Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) special allowance fund.

Ma on Wednesday said that his office's mishandling of the special mayoral allowance had been the result of an "administrative defect" brought about by Taipei City Government staffer Yu Wen (余文), who had substituted receipts for smaller amounts with personal receipts for larger amounts in a bid to reduce his paperwork.

Ma said that he had not been aware of Yu's substitutions.

"We have received information that Sun Chen-ni (孫振妮), a secretary in Ma's office, has admitted to prosecutors that she helped Yu to collect false receipts for reimbursement," DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) told a press conference.

DPP Legislator Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓) said a member of the Taipei City Government staff informed her late last night that several high-level officials at the city government had been collecting receipts for reimbursement from the fund.

"The staffer said he had decided to reveal the information to me because he was uphappy that Ma was not taking responsibility for the irregularities," Hsieh said at a separate press conference, without identifying the informant.

Director of the mayor's office Cheng An-kuo (鄭安國), who resigned on Wednesday, said that 3,758 original receipts amounting to NT$1,410,898 (US$43,000) had been replaced, and that Yu's receipts added up to between NT$800,000 and NT$900,000, suggesting there was no room for embezzlement.

Cheng said that a backup fund had been created to cover any deficit in Ma's special mayoral allowance, and that Yu had claimed reimbursements against this fund.

DPP lawmakers said that they did not find the inconsistencies in the city government's explanations surprising at all.

That Yu substituted receipts to reduce his paperwork is a lie, Kuan said.

"Before Yu was transferred to another post [in June], he had been handling the reimbursement for 882 days. Was he really so busy that he couldn't deal with an average of four [original] receipts per day?" Kuan asked.

Kuan questioned whether Cheng had fabricated a story about the backup fund to explain away inconsistencies and confuse prosecutors.

DPP lawmakers also called into question Cheng's statement that "Ma's mayoral allowance fund was used for public affairs and public welfare, including red envelopes for newlyweds and white envelopes for funerals."

"According to a document from the Ministry of Audit, the Taipei City Government has earmarked NT$1.8 million annually for this purpose. Why did they need extra money from Ma's mayoral allowance fund for this purpose?" Hsieh asked.

Taipei City Government Secretariat Director Lee Sush-der's (李述德) statement that half of Ma's monthly mayoral allocation of NT$80,000 had been used to reward his staff was also questionable, the lawmakers added.

"In 2001 and 2002, more than 90 percent of Ma's special allowance fund was used to reward his staff members. It's unusual. Even more unusual is that this percentage dropped sharply from 2003, when Yu started handling the reimbursement," Kuan said.

In response, Lee later yesterday said the allocation of NT$1.8 million had not been enough to cover all contributions to weddings and funerals, and so part of the fund was used to pay for these expenses.

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