National Taiwan University (NTU) will look into the legal issues related to the use of government funds by researchers amid corruption allegations against academics at schools around the nation, the university’s president said.
University president Lee Si-chen (李嗣涔) said the legal department of his school will also study whether the academics should be treated as civil servants and will make its stance known in a public announcement.
Lee’s comments came as Taipei prosecutors announced a list of 22 faculty members from three universities, including NTU, accused of using false receipts to claim expenses and then pocketing the money.
The allegations follow the indictment of 10 professors, associate professors and research staff from several universities by Changhua prosecutors late last month on similar corruption charges.
The Changhua prosecutors charged the academics with using false receipts from two scientific instrument companies to claim expenses and from benefiting from rigged tenders.
Prosecutors alleged that the instrument companies — Kuo Yang Scientific Corp and Li Ming Instrument Co — inflated prices in tenders and then passed on the difference to the academics.
The indicted academics are from National Yang Ming University, National Chung Hsing University, National Taichung University of Education and National Chung Cheng University, according to the Changhua District Prosecutors Office.
Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) on Monday said that academics should not use government funds for personal gain, but he also appealed to judicial authorities to treat academics who used the funds for research more leniently.
On Sunday, Chiang joined the heads of the National Science Council and Academia Sinica in urging prosecutors not to press corruption charges against scholars over government-funded purchases for scientific research, which they said are governed by the Fundamental Act of Science and Technology (科學技術基本法).
By treating the indicted academics as civil servants, Changhua prosecutors subjected them to more serious corruption statutes that apply to government workers. The academics would face less serious charges, such as fraud, if they were not considered to be civil servants.
The cases announced by Taipei prosecutors on Monday involved academics from NTU, National Chengchi University and National Taiwan Normal University, with the highest number being from NTU, according to the Taipei District Prosecutors Office.
During questioning, several admitted using the funds to purchase items for personal use, including televisions, prosecutors said.
Taipei prosecutors said they were tipped off to the scheme, in which academics at several national universities were using false receipts from a Taipei company to claim research funds that were ultimately used to buy consumer electronics goods and shopping vouchers.
Investigators launched raids at the three universities in March last year and also questioned instructors and their assistants.
Taipei prosecutors said that in addition to the 22 academics, they have also listed two representatives from the company implicated as potential defendants and will continue their investigation to find out if more people are involved.