Fri, Jun 13, 2008 - Page 3 News List

New integrity rules for public servants

IF THEY CAN DO IT Facing anger by some officials, the minister of justice said the laws on gifts are even stricter in the US and Singapore and that Taipei City uses similar ones

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Cabinet meeting yesterday passed a set of measures aimed at regulating the integrity of about 400,000 public servants and their families as the first step toward establishing “clean government,” Executive Yuan Spokeswoman Vanessa Shih (史亞平) said.

The number of public servants bound by the regulations would total about 600,000 if the Ministry of Education decided to include teachers in public schools, as regulations currently refer only to government employees, employees at state-owned enterprises and military personnel.

One of the regulations states that public servants are not allowed to receive any gift valued at NT$3,000 (US$100) or higher or any gifts with a total value of NT$10,000 or above from a single person in a year when the giver is deemed to be an “interested person.”

A Cabinet official said yesterday that it is a social custom in Taiwan to present red envelopes containing money to business associates during holidays or special occasions — such as weddings and celebrations — and to give money in white envelopes at funerals.

RULES

Public functionaries are allowed to accept red or white envelopes on special occasions, but the amount of money cannot exceed NT$3, 000, the regulations stipulate.

Public servants who accept presents from people who are not interested parties are required by the regulation to report the gifts to their office.

Presents given to public servants via their spouses, relatives or family members either living together or sharing common properties with public servants, or any third parties are regarded as presents directly accepted by public servants.

The government did not include panel provisions in the regulations — classified as administrative orders from a legal standpoint — which do not need legislative approval.

The official, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the regulations were inspired by codes of conduct for public office holders in the US, Japan and Singapore.

Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) said yesterday that the regulations would take effect on Aug. 1 as public servants need time to familiarize themselves with the new rules.

Shih quoted Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) as saying during the Cabinet meeting that the move was only a first step by the government to ensure integrity.

DISAGREEMENT

Responding to complaints, as reported by the United Daily News yesterday, from public servants that the regulations were too strict, Wang said the regulations were not as severe as those in the US and Singapore.

“The Taipei City Government enforced the same regulations in 2000. If public servants at the Taipei City Government can adapt to the rules, there is no reason why public servants in other cities and counties can’t,” Wang said.

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