Official records show that former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had not used any money from his presidential retirement stipend to rent or buy property in Taipei, the Presidential Office said yesterday.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) told a press conference that an examination of the funds found that “none of the expenses had obvious links” to properties owned or rented by Chen.
Wang made the remarks in response to reporters’ questions about speculation that Chen had used the money to which he is entitled as former president to pay for his Paolai (寶徠) apartment in Taipei.
Wang said that while Chen had spent NT$5 million (US$142,200) from his retirement stipend since he left office in May last year, none of the receipts or claim slips was for the rental or purchase of the Paolai apartment.
Wang said that although some of Chen’s predecessors have used their stipends to rent or buy property, this practice was no longer allowed after the Statute Governing Preferential Treatment to Retired Presidents and Vice Presidents (卸任總統副總統禮遇條例) came into effect on Jan. 1, 2007.
The statute stipulates that a former president is entitled to a NT$250,000 monthly stipend. On top of that, former presidents receive NT$8 million to cover business expenses for the first year after they step down. The amount is reduced by NT$1 million in each subsequent year. A former president is also entitled to eight to 12 security guards and reimbursement for medical expenses.
Wang said the Special Investigation Panel asked the Presidential Office on Dec. 2 last year to verify the accuracy of a similar claim about Chen’s use of his retirement stipend.
A careful examination did not find any irregularity in Chen’s spending of his business allowance, Wang said.
The Presidential Office conducted another examination yesterday morning, and the result was the same, he said.
However, Wang said that while it might be possible for receipts or claims forms to have been forged, the Presidential Office was diligent in its efforts to weed out false claims.
Chen’s office yesterday also denied that Chen had used his stipend to pay for the rental or purchase of the Paolai apartment.
All expenses paid for by the presidential allowance since May last year have been examined and approved by the Presidential Office Accounting Department, Chen’s office said in a statement.
If a false receipt had been used to claim money from the fund, the accounting department should be held administratively responsible, it said.
Wang said in response to the statement that Chen’s office was being “malevolent” by laying the blame for possible irregularities on the accounting department.
He added that Chen had caused grave trouble for accounting officials, because many of them have been summoned for questioning in relation to the legal proceedings against the former president.
While Chen’s office also expressed regret over the way the Presidential Office had handled the former president’s business expenses, Wang dismissed this as “inconsistent with the facts.”
If it were not for their efforts, Wang said, the legislature would have halved the value of the fund, rather than trimming it by one-fifth last month.
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