Thu, Nov 30, 2006 - Page 3 News List

No one at fault in probes, Su says

By Jimmy Chuang and Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday said that the recent special allowance fund controversy is the result of a "historical glitch" and that no individual was at fault.

"This [the corruption allegations] is nobody's fault. We are just following the footprints left by our pioneers," Su said.

The premier made his remarks during the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday morning. During that meeting, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) offered a brief on the special allowance funds, including an explanation and the history behind the regulation establishing them.

Su said "he understood" recent arguments about this issue, but he also urged the public to fix the problem together, instead of attacking certain subject officials on purpose for political reasons.

"More than 6,500 government heads and officials are earning `special allowance funds' every month. It is quite natural that most of these officials ask their staff members to take care of the money for them," Su said. "Now that we discovered this leak, we should fix the leak instead of making it a bigger disaster."

Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics Minister Hsu Jan-yau (許璋瑤) said that he would trust officials without double checking their receipts when they apply for their special allowance money every month.

"We are usually flexible toward this money, and would not strictly ask those officials to list all the details of their expenses of their special allowance money," Hsu explained to the premier during the meeting.

Hsu told Su that the government first established the special allowance fund mechanism in 1952, but since 1973, the DGBAS stopped asking for detailed receipts from officials who received the money.

"But things will be different starting Jan. 1, as the new regulation will be carried out, and all the special allowance money will only be approved and issued upon receipt of the receipts," Hsu said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) yesterday said prosecutors should take a lenient approach in their investigations into the abuse of special allowance funds.

The MOJ said the special allowance fund should be seen as "substantial subsidy" (實質補貼) to officials, and so a lenient approach should be taken in dealing with the issue.

The MOJ said that in practice, it is difficult to clearly determine whether the funds are used for public affairs or personal expenses.

The ministry said that in the nation's history it has been a convention that officials have flexibility in their handing of special allowance funds.

"If an official overspends his or her special allowance fund, the government does not cover it. On the other hand, if a official has remains of the special allowance fund, he or she is not required to submit that money to the government," added the MOJ.

The ministry said officials have been able to receive half of their special allowance funds without accounting oversight since 1973. The government's audit authority has not questioned this provision.

The ministry's statements is part of an attempt to make a standard procedure for prosecutors' investigating alleged corruption involving special allowance funds.

More than 50 individuals, including top level politicians, are facing probes nationwide.

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