Tue, Oct 09, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Budget review becomes farcical

PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE BUDGET There was plenty of pounding on tables and raised voices but little real progress yesterday in the Organic Laws and Statutes Committee

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Amid verbal clashes and table pounding, the legislature's Organic Laws and Statutes Committee yesterday began reviewing the Presidential Office's budget for next year.

The meeting got off to a bad start when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進), who chaired the meeting, criticized Presidential Office Secretary-General Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) for failing to attend a committee's meeting on Oct. 1.

At the time, the committee resolved to condemn Yeh and referred her to the Control Yuan for correction or impeachment.

Yeh said yesterday that she had simply followed constitutional precedent, according to which the Presidential Office secretary-general attends legislative committee meetings only when the office's budget or legislation concerning the office is reviewed.

Leaping to Yeh's defense, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wang Tuoh (王拓), who is not a member of the committee, launched into a verbal tirade.

respect

Lee then asked Wang to respect the committee and ask for permission before speaking.

Pounding on the table, Wang called Lee a "despotic bully" and said that, constitutionally, the Presidential Office does not need to answer to the Legislative Yuan.

DPP Legislator Chen Hsien-chung (陳憲中), also not a member of the committee, began pounding on the table when Lee ignored his request to speak.

Chen was later allowed to speak, but one hour was taken up with bickering before committee members were able to question Yeh and other officials about the budget.

The question-and-answer session was tough going for Yeh as lawmakers gave her little time opportunity to respond to their questions.

The Presidential Office projected next year's revenues at more than NT$817,000 (US$25,000) and expenditure at NT$1.3 billion. The expenses figures represents growth of 16.9 percent from last year.

Revenues of other agencies that are supervised by the Presidential Office -- the National Security Council, Academia Sinica, Academia Historica and Taiwan Historica -- were projected at NT$114 million with expenditures totaling NT$11 billion.

Among the Presidential Office's major expenses is the inauguration ceremony for the new president; estimated at NT$99.5 million, not including reception and decoration fees.

state affairs fund

The Presidential Office plans to increase the new president's "state affairs fund" from NT$30 million to NT$50 million. The purchase of six new vehicles for the new president, vice president, their spouses and entourage are estimated to cost NT$35 million.

Opposition lawmakers including KMT Legislator Joanna Lei (雷倩) proposed freezing or cutting the Presidential Office's budget, while DPP lawmakers including Legislator Tsai Chi-fang (蔡啟芳) said the president's "state affairs fund" should be increased.

DPP Legislator Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓) noted that the vice president has had a "special allowance fund" since 1987, when Lien Chan (連戰) served as both vice president and premier.

KMT Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) asked what National Day the Presidential Office will be celebrating tomorrow after the office refused to put up placards saying "Celebration of the Republic of China's National Day" as it has in the past.

Yeh said the office will celebrate the National Day of the Republic of China, but added that the republic includes only the land inhabited by the 23 million Taiwanese -- and not Outer Mongolia and China as claimed by the former KMT regime.

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