Both the administrative and legislative branches of government yesterday refused to take responsibility for correcting an omission in an amendment to the Accounting Act (會計法) that means a large number of professors could still face prosecution for allegedly misusing receipts to claim government reimbursements.
A revision to the Accounting Act was rushed through the legislature late on Friday night, ostensibly to exempt more than 500 professors from having to have their government research grants audited by government controllers. The amendment also exempted elected officials from being prosecuted over their special allowances.
However, it was later found that the word “teaching [faculty]” was missing from the amended act’s Article 99-1, which describes groups of people who could be exempted.
Correcting the mistake would require a veto from the Executive Yuan or a Legislative Yuan decision for a reconsideration.
However, the Executive Yuan yesterday said it would not veto the amendment since the proposal was initiated by lawmakers, rather than the administrative branch.
“With respect to reconsideration, it is the right of the Legislative Yuan and we would respect whatever decision the lawmakers eventually make,” Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) said.
“If the legislature applies for reconsideration on the amendment, the Cabinet will respect its decision,” she added.
Both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucuses said the Executive Yuan should veto the amendment, with DPP caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) saying that the Legislative Yuan was in recess and the amendment proposal was reviewed by the Executive Yuan before it was sent to the legislature.
The Executive Yuan could solve the problem by adopting an “extensive explanation” of the clause, which is within its authorization, to include professors in the decriminalization package, Ker said.
If the Executive Yuan refused to adopt an explanation, then it should veto the amendment and send it to the Legislative Yuan for a vote, Ker added.
National Taiwan University Hospital physician Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who is among hundreds of professors under investigation for allegedly misusing receipts to claim government reimbursements, said the legislative oversight “was either a treacherous move or a stupid one.”
“I am of the opinion that the legislature [passed the amendment] not for the sake of addressing the legal conundrum faced by the professors, but to get former independent legislator Yen Ching-piao (顏清標) off the hook,” Ko said, adding that the omission underscored the government’s hasty and slipshod quality of legislation and policymaking.
According to the Taichung District Prosecutors’ Office, Yen, who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for using nearly NT$20 million (US$670,000) in taxpayer money to visit hostess bars and who has been in jail since Feb. 19, will be released when the act takes effect.