Wed, Nov 15, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Substitute receipts discovered in mayoral account

By Mo Yan-chih and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

A Taipei City staffer who handled reimbursements for Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) special mayoral allowance was found to have substituted receipts for smaller amounts with personal receipts for larger amounts in a bid to reduce his paperwork, a city official said last night.

In an attempt to simplify the reimbursement procedures for amounts ranging from NT$10,000 to NT$20,000 spent on items such as meals or newspapers -- which could total between 50 and 100 receipts each month -- the employee substituted his own receipts for larger amounts for several of the smaller ones, Taipei City Government Secretariat Director Lee Sush-der (李述德) told a press conference last night.

"It was simply laziness ... He wanted to save the trouble involved in issuing reimbursements for each and every receipt, and used personal receipts for larger amounts so that he didn't have issue so many reimbursements," Lee said.

He said the substitutions had not been discovered until the end of last month when the prosecutors began investigating Ma's use of the special mayoral fund.

More than 4,000 receipts, totalling between NT$700,000 and 800,000, had been "exchanged" in this way since 2003, Lee said.

Asked to compare this situation with the alleged use of fake receipts to claim reimbursement from the president's special "state allowance fund," Taipei's Law and Regulation Commissioner Chen Ching-hsiu (陳清秀) said there was "a whale of a difference."

"In the case of president's special allowance fund, they produced receipts where there was no actual expenditure. But in this case, there was actual spending. It's only a procedural blemish," he said.

Chen said there was no indication the staffer had pocketed any money from the mayor's fund, but the case has been reported to prosecutors for investigation.

When asked for a comment on the discovery, Ma said he was surprised.

Earlier yesterday Ma's personal assets came under questioning from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members.

DPP Legislator William Lai Ching-te (賴清德) and Taipei City Councilors Hsu Chia-chin (徐佳青) and Chou Wei-you (周威佑) told a press conference that Ma's personal savings had increased after he ran for the chairmanship of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Although they estimated that Ma had spent NT$30 million (US$915,503) campaigning for the chairmanship and covered his daughter Ma Yuan-chung's (馬元中) tuition and living expenses at Brown University in Rhode Island -- to the tune of about NT$1 million -- Ma's fortune still increased by about NT$4.4 million last year, Lai said.

The trio said they suspected part of Ma's campaign funds either came from his special mayoral allowance or illegal political donations, since he does not come from a wealthy family. Lai said Ma would have violated the Political Donation Law (政治獻金法) if he had accepted donations.

According to the deputy director of the Ministry of Interior's Department of Civil Affairs, Li Ching-chi (李清淇), who was at the new conference, the donation law stipulates that only those who run for governmental positions can accept political donations.

Violators risk being fined the amount of donations they accepted.

Lai also questioned whether the New Taiwanese Cultural Foundation, a think tank established by Ma after he won the 1998 Taipei mayoral election, helped Ma with political fundraising during the KMT campaign.

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