Legislators across party lines yesterday showed a rare display of unity in accusing the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) of violating its budgetary code by illegally using emergency government funds to help Chinese provinces with post-disaster reconstruction projects.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said the council intended to allocate a total of NT$65.57 million (US$2 million) from the central government’s emergency fund — also known as the -“second -reserve fund” — in this year’s budget request to help residents of two Chinese provinces rebuild their homes.
Lo said the council planned to use NT$32 million in Yushu, -Qinghai Province, which was struck by a magnitude 6.9 earthquake in April last year, while the remaining NT$33 million would go to victims affected by mudslides in Zhouqu, Gansu Province. The mudslide, which struck in August, claimed more than 1,700 lives and affected a third of the area’s residents.
Lo said the Budget Act (預算法) strictly regulates the use of the emergency funds, which she said was widely abused under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
“The Mainland Affairs Council acts first and reports later,” she said. “I suspect that what it did was illegal, which puts recipients in a very awkward position.”
Article 70 of the act stipulates that government agencies can request use of the emergency money under certain circumstances, provided such a request is approved by the Executive Yuan. If approved, the budget must afterwards be examined by the legislature.
According to law, -government agencies can request the fund when the original budget approved is insufficient because of “actual necessity.”
They can also make such a request when additional expenditures are needed because of extra workload. Finally, they can do so for provisional needs.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said government agencies wishing to use emergency money must be scrupulous.
“Unless it is really necessary, I don’t think they should make such a request,” he said. “If the Mainland Affairs Council wanted to help people in those two Chinese provinces, they could have raised money through public donations rather than use the government’s emergency fund.”
Tsai said he would request that the Control Yuan step in and determine whether the council acted inappropriately or broke any laws.
DPP Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said the council not only violated the law, but it should also explain to the public why it used money from the Republic of China government for citizens of the People’s Republic of China.
Huang said the DPP legislative caucus would closely examine the council’s budget request when the time comes.
In a statement last night, the council said it did everything in accordance with the law and that this was not the first time the -emergency fund had been used to assist Chinese provinces struck by national disasters.
When the DPP was in power, it said, then-premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) announced on May 13, 2008, that the administration would earmark NT$700 million from the emergency fund following the earthquake in Sichuan Province. The money was approved by the legislature in December 2009 and later by the National Audit Office, it said.
The statement said the Budget Act stipulates that the legislature must be notified should the amount exceed NT$50 million. The council did not violate the budgetary code, but merely followed the proper procedure, it said.