Fri, Nov 17, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Taipei City Government denies mayoral fund cover-up

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taipei City Government yesterday denied allegations that it had attempted to cover up the maladministration of the mayoral allowance fund.

It also dismissed allegations that more than one staffer was involved in the controversy.

City government officials said on Tuesday that after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators including Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓) accused Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of pocketing his mayoral allowance fund and reported the case to the prosecutors in August, the city government had formed an investigative team. That team identified that the fund had been maladministered in October and concluded its report on the matter on Nov. 3, the officials said.

Asked why the city government had not made the findings of its investigation public until Tuesday night, Taipei City Government Secretariat Director Lee Sush-der(李述德) denied that officials had tried to cover up the scandal.

"We have to [first find out what is going on] ... How can we explain the matter when we don't understand the situation?" Lee said.

Yu Wen (余文), a Taipei City staffer who handled reimbursements for the allowance, was found last month to have substituted his own receipts for larger amounts for official receipts for smaller amounts since 2003 in a bid to reduce his paperwork.

After Yu admitted what he had done, the city government spent two days searching for the bogus receipts and found between 80 and 90 of them, amounting to around NT$80,000, amid some 3,754 receipts, totaling around NT$141,000, in the basement on Nov. 11.

Arguing that the city government had not come clean immediately because Ma had not returned from his trip to Paris until last Saturday, Lee urged the public to wait for the results of the official investigation before making any judgment.

"What really matters is whether or not anyone has pocketed the money. So far the city government has found no evidence [to suggest this was the case] ... Let's wait for the results of the investigation," Lee said.

In response to the DPP questioning Ma's claim that he spent some of the fund on rewards and gifts for staff members, the city government released last month's reward list late on Wednesday night.

According to the reward list, a total of NT$89,500 was used to reward 18 staffers, including Ma's secretaries, drivers and bodyguards. Each received about NT$5,000 on average.

Government regulations state that the mayor need submit receipts for only half of his NT$340,000 monthly allowance.

Of the NT$170,000 portion of the allowance for which receipts are required, about NT$80,000 was usually used to reward staff members and the remaining NT$90,000 was spent on matters of public affairs, Lee said.

Ma also used the fund to pay for the breakfasts of his bodyguards and drivers, who usually picked him up early in the morning, Lee added.

When asked to release copies of the receipts, Lee refused and told members of the media not to try to act as investigators.

Sun Cheng-ni (孫振妮), a secretary in the mayor's office, denied DPP allegations that she had been involved in the submission of bogus receipts for reimbursement.

After first playing hide-and-seek with the media, Sun told the press that she had helped to purchase certain items necessary for the operation of the mayor's office and had submitted the receipts to Yu for reimbursement.

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