Fri, Sep 29, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Mayor's spending habits attacked by city councilors

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, far right, and other pan-blue politicians coax Democratic Progressive Party City Councilor Lee Chien-chang, far left, into taking a picture with Ma yesterday at the Taipei City Council. Yesterday was the final question-and-answer session for Ma at the city council during his term as mayor.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors once again accused Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of corruption yesterday -- for allegedly embezzling from the special allowance that the city government distributes to the mayor.

The mayor's bank account has increased by more than NT$1.06 million (US$30,000) over the past seven years because he funneled half his monthly special allowance fund into his personal account, the councilors claimed.

Ma receives a special allowance of NT$340,000 per month.

"Why didn't you open another account for the special allowance fund? As a person who has pledged to fight corruption, you should hold yourself to a higher standard," Councilwoman Hsu Chia-chin (徐佳青) said during a question-and-answer session at the Taipei City Council.

Councilors Lee Chian-chang (李建昌) and Chou Wei-you (周威佑) chimed in by urging Ma to make public his account records.

"The biggest problem is that you see the fund as your own personal fortune and don't return the money left over," Lee said.

The councilors also reiterated criticism over Ma paying the physical examination fee and other expenses to adopt his dog with money from the fund. The mayor has since reimbursed the fund for those fees.

Ma responded to the criticism by pointing out that he was subject to the same regulations that governed the special allowances allotted to the country's more than 6,000 top government officials -- which allowed officials to wire the money directly into personal accounts and only required them to provide receipts for half the expenditures.

"Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) receives his fund in the same way, too ? The issue is the regulations and that is not my problem," Ma said.

The mayor said that most of his special allowance was spent on public welfare.

Shih Su-mei (石素梅), commissioner of the city's Budget, Accounting and Statistics Department, said the city government handled Ma's special allowance funds according to Executive Yuan regulations.

"The regulations state that officials only need to provide receipts for half of the expenditures ? If the government changes its rules in the future, we will follow them," Shih said.

While Ma insisted that most of his fund money goes to public or charity events, Hsu questioned donations that Ma's wife's made to two foundations -- the Dwen An Social Welfare Foundation and New Taiwanese Cultural Foundation.

Both foundations were founded by the mayor.

"You used Taipei residents' money to make donations to your own foundations. Does that make any sense?" Hsu said.

The DPP councilors said they would ask the Ministry of Audit to examine Ma's expenditures.

Yesterday was the last time Ma was to answer questions in the City Council during his term as Taipei mayor.

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