Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) dismissed media speculation yesterday that the Cabinet was blocking an amendment to the Public Functionary Assets Disclosure Law (公職人員財產申報法) from taking effect next March.
"This is a serious distortion [of the facts]," he said while fielding questions from Chinese Nationalist Party Legislator Pan Wei-kang (
Chang was referring to a story in yesterday's Chinese-language China Times which said the Cabinet had sent an official document to the Ministry of Justice last month, asking it to postpone implementing the amendment until next October.
The legislature passed the amendment -- aimed at cleaning up politics by tightening regulations on officials' assets disclosures and expanding the scope of the bill -- in March.
Once the amendment takes effect, high-level government officials, their spouses and their children would be required to declare their assets in greater detail to the Control Yuan by including jewelry, antiques, calligraphy and paintings.
The timing of the implementation is crucial because the amendment requires officials to declare their assets within two months of leaving office.
The Control Yuan decided in September that the amendment should take effect in March.
If that happened President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) would have to provide a more detailed list of their assets when Chen leaves office.
The story alleged that the Cabinet sought to delay implementation to help the first family and current Cabinet members.
"If implementation of the amendment were put off until October, current officials such as members of the Examination Yuan and board members of state-run enterprises would be able to escape the amendment's requirements," Pan said.
"The Cabinet is trying to prevent the public from knowing how much Chen and Wu actually own," she said.
Chang, however, said the law stipulates that the Cabinet, the Examination Yuan and the Control Yuan share the power to decide when to implement the amendment. He said the Cabinet agreed with a March date.
"I do not have any personal preference," he said.
Chang, however, confirmed that the Ministry of Finance had received suggestions from board members of several state-run enterprises that implementation should be delayed because they were concerned with privacy issues.
"The Cabinet was not trying to cut certain people some slack," Chang told reporters.
"If [the allegation] were true, Wu Shu-jen would not have been indicted," he said.
The first lady was indicted on corruption and forgery charges in the "state affairs" fund case.
In related developments, Chang promised yesterday to thoroughly review the amount of money government agencies spend each year on meetings and training seminars held in resorts and luxury hotels.
A Ministry of Audit report released on Monday showed the government spent NT$1.83 billion (US$56.6 million) in 2005 on such gatherings. The report said some officials had brought family members with them to such events, with the government footing the bill.
"The Cabinet places great importance on the Ministry of Audit's report," Chang said. "We are willing to make improvements if the government made mistakes."