The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday pushed back an amendment to the Law Governing Legislators’ Exercise of Power (立法院職權行使法) that would grant the legislature the right to investigate the government’s administrative bodies.
The right to investigate the executive was part of a draft amendment proposed by KMT Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) — the convener of the legislature’s Judiciary, Organic Laws and Statutes Committee — and fellow KMT Legislator Daniel Hwang (黃義交).
Originally scheduled to be read in the legislature today, debate on the amendment has been postponed until next week as Hsieh and Hwang clarify details of the changes.
The proposed amendment also includes measures on punishing civil officials who are absent for question-and-answer sessions without permission. The measures were discussed yesterday morning.
KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) said yesterday that the right to investigate administrative bodies was a serious matter and that because of its impact on other legislation, a draft version from the entire KMT was necessary.
Lin said that if individual legislators proposed the amendment, then the KMT would not oppose it. However, the importance of the issue called for a draft with the party’s full participation, he said.
Lin’s comments came after the legislature on Sunday proposed regulations that made contempt for the legislature a crime, and that regulate the punishment of government officials who don’t attend question-and-answer sessions.
Hsieh on Sunday said the amendment would authorize the legislature to form a commission of inquiry, hold a public hearing and gather related information, and would outline punishments for people who give false testimony.
The main objective of the proposed law is to authorize the legislature to investigate suspicious cases relating to government activities and personnel. But to avoid controversy, it does not give the legislature the authority to punish those alleged to be responsible.
Hwang said that the changes were not a case of the legislature expanding its power as the proposal was in line with a Council of Grand Justices ruling.
He said that the legislative floor or legislative committees would be able to form an investigation committee. People who are not members of the legislature would have no role to play, he said.
The Judiciary, Organic Laws and Statutes Committee yesterday approved a preliminary review of draft amendments to the law, which will proceed to the plenary legislative session without further cross-party negotiations.
Under the draft, the premier, the vice premier and Cabinet ministers would be required to attend a full-house legislative session.
Absentees would have to obtain consent from their supervisors and present a letter stating the reason for the absence.
Cabinet ministers and officials, except for those employed by independent institutions, must attend legislative committee meetings.
The same rule would apply to the Control Yuan, the Examination Yuan and the Control Yuan.
Violators would face a fine of NT$30,000 per offense upon the investigating committee’s recommendation and with the approval of a plenary legislative session. Repeat offenders would be fined until they corrected their conduct.
Offenders with “serious violations” deemed as expressing contempt for the legislature would be referred to the Control Yuan. Punishment would then include impeachment.
Although committee members supported the draft, they spent some time arguing on the details of punishments.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) proposed handing over first offenders to the Control Yuan. He also expressed concern over the effectiveness of the amended law if it was not strict enough.
Hsieh, however, said that Ker’s proposal was severe and suggested that violators be fined for the first three offenses before being sent to the government watchdog.
Hsieh said he opposed DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong’s (蔡同榮) proposal to amend the criminal code so government officials who ignore the legislature would be charged with a criminal offense.
KMT Legislator Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井) proposed expanding the scope of punishment to discipline government officials who refuse to act appropriately on the legislative floor and who refuse to provide information to legislators.
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