Thu, May 30, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Lawmakers bicker over secret funds

OVERSIGHT Opposition legislators accused the DPP of wasting taxpayers' money by not ending a meeting to discuss regulating secret budgets

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Partisan strife paralyzed a legislative committee yesterday, as DPP lawmakers described opposition attempts to bring secret government funding under legislative oversight as "absurd."

Frustrated at the legislative inactivity, members from the opposition alliance accused their ruling counterparts of wasting tax money.

At the center of the dispute is a bill, sponsored by KMT lawmakers including Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), which would allow the establishment of a special legislative committee to review secret budget requests.

"The DPP has no objection to proposals to better regulate secret government funding," said DPP legislative whip Wang Tuoh (王拓). "But the bill at question is so poorly drawn up that it can not help achieve the goal."

Together, Wang and other DPP colleagues successfully ended a meeting of the Budget and Final Accounts Committee discussing the mater despite the protests of opposition lawmakers.

The legislation to monitor national secret budgets would empower the legislature to set up a committee to review all confidential budget proposals prepared by intelligence agencies and the ministries of defense and foreign affairs.

The committee, which would be formed by 17 members from all caucuses, would meet at least twice a year and may summon officials for questioning, the bill says.

To ensure confidentiality, all meetings would be closed to the media, and members found leaking secret information would be expelled, according to the bill.

Lin Cho-shui (林濁水), another DPP legislator, said he found it ill-advised to create a committee that would abridge the power of current standing committees.

"Over 95 percent of the National Security Bureau's (NSB) budget is classified," Lin pointed out. "The legislation, if adopted, would severely weaken the power of the defense committee that is in charge of reviewing the agency's funding."

He further warned of potential policy inconsistencies if the foreign ministry, for instance, would have to brief different committees of their spending programs.

The disputed bill is the sixth of its kind to be considered after news of two NSB secret accounts came to light in March. Former NSB cashier Liu Kuan-chun (劉冠軍), who fled the country in September 2000, allegedly embezzled NT$190 million from the funds.

Opposition lawmakers have argued that it is impossible to rein in intelligence operations without tightened legislative oversight.

DPP Legislator Chen Chung-shin (陳忠信) said his party has long frowned on reported abuses by the intelligence establishment but he doubted the bill could contribute to overseeing the agencies.

He noted there are already five bills that seek to address the problem.

Unconvinced, the opposition alliance threatened to boycott the ongoing budgetary review for state-run enterprises.

PFP legislative leader Chin Huei-chu (秦慧珠) said that by disrupting yesterday's meeting, the DPP lawmakers attempted to cover up the administration's "shoddy" activities.

"It is regretful that legislators from the ruling party should take the lead and waste taxpayers' money by doing nothing all day long," Chin said. "Their protest is apparently a gambit aimed at sheltering abuse by the DPP government of secret funds."

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