KMT proposes ‘decriminalizing’ fund

TIMING:The KMT caucus secretary-general said that now that former president Chen has been found guilty, talk of decriminalizing special allowance funds could begin


Mon, Sep 14, 2009 - Page 1

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus yesterday again proposed “decriminalizing” the use of the special allowance fund by government chiefs.

The KMT caucus first suggested an amendment to the Audit Law (審計法) in April 2007 that would decriminalize government chiefs’ personal use of special allowance funds.

The move at the time was seen as a bid to clear embezzlement allegations against then-former Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who was indicted in February 2007 on charges of embezzling NT$11 million (US$338,000) from his special mayoral allowance during his eight years as Taipei mayor between December 1998 and July 2006.

Ma was found not guilty in the final verdict in April last year.

KMT caucus secretary-general Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) yesterday said that the last legislative session did not make any progress in “decriminalizing” government chiefs’ use of their special allowance funds because the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had insisted on also decriminalizing former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) use of his state affairs fund.

“Now that Chen has been found guilty in the first trial, we can now discuss [decriminalization] of [how the government chiefs use their] special allowance fund,” Lu said, referring to the verdict handed out by the Taipei District Court on Friday sentencing Chen and his wife Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) to life in prison in the first trial of Chen’s state affairs fund case.

Lu told reporters that it was necessary for the legislature to pass the legislation given that some 200 government chiefs are still being investigated for how they spent their special affairs funds.

How government chiefs spend their special affairs fund — a monthly fund for public relations purposes — became the subject of a controversy after former DPP legislator Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓) and others in 2006 accused Ma of misusing his special allowance fund during his tenure as Taipei mayor.

After Ma’s indictment, about 200 incumbent or former government chiefs from both the pan-blue and the pan-green camps, including then-vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and former premier Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃), were indicted by prosecutors for allegedly embezzling their special affairs funds.

DPP Policy Research Committee head Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said the previous legislative session had reached a consensus to push through the legislation during the upcoming fall session, but the KMT caucus had insisted on dealing with the matter only after a ruling was handed down in the first trial of Chen’s case.

The proposed amendment to decriminalize government chiefs’ personal use of special allowance funds means delinking the issue from the president’s use of the state affairs fund, an idea that members of the DPP are divided on.

DPP caucus whip Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) said he would propose a motion during the party’s Central Standing Committee on Wednesday, suggesting that the president’s state affairs fund be included in the proposed amendment.

“In essence, the function of the state affairs fund is the same as that of the [government chiefs’] special allowance fund. The only difference is that they are being called by two different names,” he said. “It would be unfair and unreasonable if the state affairs fund is not included in the amendment.”