Mon, Nov 20, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Fund scandals illustrate need for reform, expert says

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The political furore over the president's "state affairs fund" and the Taipei mayor's "special allowance fund" illustrates the need for constitutional reform, said the former vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council.

"Political infighting targeting the president would be less brutal if the government system were changed to a parliamentary system," said Chen Ming-tong (陳明通), a professor at National Taiwan University's Graduate Institute of National Development. "It is equally important that the administration establishes a better system to tackle problems caused by justice in transition."

Chen made the remarks at a forum held by the Taiwan Thinktank to discuss the controversies involving President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) "state affairs fund" and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) "special allowance fund."

The forum is the fourth of a series of panel discussions on problems caused by transitional justice.

As Taiwan has transformed itself from an authoritarian to a democratic state, Chen Ming-tong said the problem caused by the president's and Ma's expense funds were a perfect example of justice in transition.

During a transitional period, Chen Ming-tong said justice does not necessarily have to be "absolutely fair" but can reach the level that is "unsatisfactory but acceptable."

He proposed that those involved in the fund controversies apologize to defuse political tensions. Those guilty of inappropriate accounting, but who did not pocket any money, must be granted amnesty, he said.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said that the controversy involving the two political leaders' expense funds should be handled at the same time and with the same standards.

In the national interest, Kuan called on Ma to treat the controversy involving his "special allowance fund" as a case of transitional justice rather than a personal legal matter.

She was referring to Ma's donation of funds to charities on Friday. Ma said he had decided to donate a sum equal to a portion of his special allowance in order to quell criticism that he had embezzled funds.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Lin (林向愷), an economics professor at National Taiwan University, criticized the Cabinet's new measure requiring receipts detailing all expenditures from the funds as "inflexible" and "a step backward."

Chen Chun-kai (陳君愷), an associate professor of history at Fu Jen University, agreed, saying it is a common practice to use fake receipts to claim reimbursements from government funds.

It is important to establish a system that prevents officials from engaging in corruption, but it is equally important to keep the system practical, feasible and efficient, he said.

"You spend so much time collecting receipts that you have very little time left to do other things," he said. "It is an unbelievable waste of time."

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