Sun, Nov 19, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Mayor is still in hot water, DPP says

ACCOUNTABILITY?Ma Ying-jeou has left a multitude of unanswered questions about how he spent the mayoral fund, as pan-green lawmakers accuse him of malfeasance

By Flora Wang and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Democratic Progressive Party legislators Pan Meng-an, left, and Kuan Bi-ling say that Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou receives a percentage of the city's traffic fines originally set for rewarding traffic police. The two said that although Ma is not a traffic police officer, he uses the money as part of his office fund.

PHOTO: WANG YI-SUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) legislators yesterday continued to accuse Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of corruption related to his special allowance fund.

Under an obscure executive order dating from the 1950s, more than 6,500 local government chiefs receive a discretionary budget, half of which can be used for public expenditures using "claim forms" filled out by the fund's recipient.

Ma's monthly discretionary fund is NT$340,000, so he has received NT$170,000 a month in funds that do not require independent accounting oversight, but do require the mayor to submit "claim forms" detailing how the funds were spent.

Ma, in response to accusations that he had pocketed cash from the portion of the fund that does not require receipts by having it wired directly into his personal account, announced late Friday night that he would donate the sum to charity. He did not explain whether he had filled out the "claim forms" as required by law.

The amount, totaling NT$15 million (US$455,580), is equal to the "claim form" portion of his monthly mayoral allowance over the past eight years.

DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) told a press conference yesterday that Ma's announcement that he would donate the cash to charity was an effort to "destroy the evidence" that he had mishandled his allowance.

Saying that Ma had broken the law by transferring the "claim form" portion of the allowance into a personal account, Kuan said that Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen (侯寬仁) should search Ma's mayoral office immediately.

Kuan also said she would conjure a witness at a conference scheduled for today, who could tell the public that Ma was aware that city government staffer Yu Wen (余文) had been substituting fraudulent receipts to be used in the accounting for the discretionary fund.

Meanwhile, Ma yesterday defended his decision to donate the money.

"I knew the decision would attract criticism, but I still wanted to do it. My purpose is to highlight the fact that such a flawed system can cause government officials to walk into a trap," Ma said while attending a municipal event.

"For the past few decades, the Ministry of Audit have never told officials how to handle the fund after the money was deposited, or whether or not we were supposed to return [any unspent funds]," Ma said, adding that he had followed regulations in putting the money into his account, and had included the allowance when declaring his assets.

Ma said he had already made donations worth about NT$5 million using the allowance, but that he would ignore his previous donations and would donate NT$15 million.

In a separate press conference, held by DPP Legislator Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) yesterday, Pan accused Ma of pocketing part of the reward that traffic police officers receive for issuing fines.

Pan said that 28 percent of every traffic ticket fine goes to beat traffic police as a reward, according to the law. But Ma -- who is not a traffic police officer -- also receives a portion of the reward as part of his office fund, Pan claimed.

Pan said that Ma's office receives NT$30,000 from the reward every month.

Kuan, who was also at the conference, asked where Ma had spent the funds, which would amount to about NT$2.85 million since Ma's first mayoral term in 1998.

But when asked by reporters whether President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had also received such a fund when he was Taipei mayor between 1994 and 1998, Kuan said she didn't have the answer just yet, as she could not reach the president.

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