Fri, Nov 17, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Committee wants clarity on special allowance funds

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-dominated legislative committee resolved yesterday that central government officials who have had access to a special allowance fund since January 2004 must declare this fact within two weeks.

Members of the Organic Laws and Statutes committee voted four-to-one in favor of the proposal made by KMT Legislator Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權).

Tseng had originally proposed that the Cabinet's Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics conduct a study on central government officials in positions ranked 12 or above on the government's 14-point scale who had access to special allowance funds since January 2001 and send a written report to the committee within two weeks.

Tseng said that it was important to find out exactly how many central government officials had been granted special allowance funds.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Yeh Yi-chin (葉宜津) criticized Tseng's proposal, calling it "a retaliation targeted at the DPP administration."

Yeh was implying that Tseng had made his proposal to suggest that KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was not the only official whose special allowance fund had been maladministered.

Prosecutors have found irregularities in the manner in which the fund was administered. Ma has acknowledged the problem and apologized for what he called "administrative defects." However, he has also said that he would not resign over the matter.

In related news, the committee approved the preliminary review of draft amendments to the Public Functionary Assets Disclosure Law (公務人員財產申報法), which would increase the fines imposed on civil servants who file false asset declarations.

While some of the draft amendments were agreed upon by the committee, the remainder will proceed to the plenary legislative session for further deliberation.

Committee members were deadlocked over the so-called "Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) article," which would set a cap on the value of gifts given to civil servants and their family members and require civil servants to include these gifts in their asset declarations.

The Control Yuan has asked Wu to answer allegations that she failed to declare certain valuables -- including diamond rings and watches -- in the first family's asset declaration.

The committee agreed to impose a fine of between NT$200,000 and NT$4 million (US$121,800) on those who file false declarations.

Civil servants who fail to explain why their assets have increased by an amount exceeding the annual salaries of themselves and their spouses would be subject to a fine of between NT$150,000 and NT$3 million.

Those who do not have any appropriate reason to justify their failure to declare their assets or place their assets in trust would face a fine of between NT$60,000 and NT$1.2 million.

Earlier in the morning, the same committee reviewed draft bills of the lobby bill, which would ban elected officials, apart from legislators, from lobbying on behalf of their former employers for a period of three years after the termination of their employment.

The committee agreed to allow foreign diplomats stationed here or personnel dispatched by a foreign government or international organization to lobby provided that doing so was in keeping with their job descriptions.

All lobbyists must register with the government agency they wish to lobby.

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