Wed, Apr 20, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Presidential Office explains timing of documents probe

SO MUCH, TOO FEW:The ‘prodigious number’ of documents and the fact that just three staffers were assigned the job were why the probe took so long

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff reporter

The “prodigious” amount of material and the fact that only three staffers could look into the matter are why it took almost three years before President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration announced that former senior Democratic Progressive Party officials were under investigation over missing documents, the Presidential Office said yesterday.

Seeking to clarify “apparent misunderstandings” in an open letter to Ma signed by 34 academics that was published in Chinese and English on April 10 and April 11 respectively, Presidential Office spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said in a letter that the case concerned events over a period of eight years, involving the offices of 17 officials serving in former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration.

“Given the prodigious number of documents that are missing and the fact that these documents were not traceable with computers, it took the Presidential Office a great deal of effort to carry out the one-by-one audit of documents and to attempt to confirm their confidentiality level,” said the letter, a copy of which was seen by the Taipei Times.

In their open letter, the academics raised questions about the timing of the announcement that the Presidential Office was handing over the investigation to the Control Yuan, coming as it did on the eve of former premier Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) registration for the DPP’s primaries for next year’s presidential election. Su is one of the 17 people being investigated.

Despite the magnitude of the task, the Presidential Office needed to maintain its routine functions and therefore there were only three staffers who could be spared to deal with the matter, which they handled during non-office hours, the letter said.

It also denied the decision to refer the matter to the government’s watchdog was politically motivated.

“Elections are held and candidates run for office almost every year in Taiwan. When could such a case be referred to the Control Yuan without the least doubt of it being politically motivated?” it said.

The Presidential Office referred the matter to the Control Yuan because only a small proportion of staffers from the offices of the 17 officials targeted by the probe were long-term civil servants and the large majority have since left the government, it said.

“Having no authority to investigate such former staffers or require them to come to the Office of the President to help clear up the matter … the Office of the President can only refer the matter to the Control Yuan in accordance with relevant laws,” the letter said.

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