Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) yesterday questioned what he saw as undue process in the slashing of his entire special allowance budget for next year, saying that he will try to explain to lawmakers why the allocation is necessary.
During Monday’s meeting of the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee, the premier’s NT$1.266 million (US$43,500) special allowance fund budget was cut, along with a similar budget of NT$4.044 million earmarked for the Cabinet’s secretary-general, two deputy secretaries-generals and nine ministers without portfolio.
The cuts to the budget proposals for next year must still be approved at a second and third reading on the legislative floor to be finalized.
Minister Without Portfolio Luo Ying-shay’s (羅瑩雪) absence from the meeting was behind what Executive Yuan Secretary-General Steven Chen (陳士魁) called an “ambush” by Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋), Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and Pasuya Yao (姚文智), along with Independent Legislator May Chin (高金素梅).
The meeting was scheduled to review the Council of Indigenous Peoples’ (CIP) budget statement. Luo had been invited to attend because she is tasked with interior affairs, including indigenous policies, at the Cabinet level.
However, Monday was not the first time Luo has stayed away from a meeting of the committee. She has irritated lawmakers by twice declining to attend the committee’s meetings and by her refusal to answer questions related to the indigenous autonomy draft act during a committee meeting she attended in her capacity as chairperson of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission.
Reacting to Luo’s absence from Monday’s session — and with only two Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers present, the three DPP lawmakers and Chin initiated a review of the Executive Yuan’s budget proposal instead of the Council of Indigenous Peoples ‘budget and tabled motions to cut the budgets.
The four had demanded that Luo attend the meeting because she is in charge of coordinating government agencies’ views on the draft acts for indigenous autonomy and for areas of indigenous-owned land or sea.
The Executive Yuan backed Luo’s decision not to attend with a written response to the committee explaining that the two draft acts were still under discussion in the council and had not been sent to the Cabinet.
Luo’s behavior “showed contempt for the legislature” because she did not ask the committee’s permission to be absent, Yao said.
KMT Legislator Jeng Tian-tsair (鄭天財), an Amis Aborigine, said he disapproved of the way the Executive Yuan had handled the issue, saying that “the Cabinet trampled over the Council of Indigenous Peoples.”
When asked yesterday evening for his opinion on the proposed budget cuts, the premier questioned the proceedings.
“It could be that the proceedings did not follow due process. On the special allowance issue per se, all the money is spent on public purposes. Not one penny has to do with me. We will explain to lawmakers that the money has legitimate uses and helps improve government efficiency,” he said.
Last month, in response to lawmakers’ questions during a legislative plenary session, Sean Chen said funds from the premier’s special allowances were used either as encouragements to Executive Yuan staff or as donations to care centers when he inspected the institutions.