Sun, Apr 05, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Civic groups pan referendum committee payments

By Chung Li-hua and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Civic groups lambasted the Executive Yuan’s Referendum Review Committee members for being eligible for NT$4,000 to NT$8,000 in part-time payments per month, even when the committee was not sitting in session, which was at odds with the other committees in the Executive Yuan, who were given a NT$2,000 flat appearance fee.

The best way to rectify the situation is to abolish the referendum committee once and for all, the civic groups said.

According to the Referendum Act (公民投票法), the job of committee members is to appear at meetings to review and vote on referendum items.

The civic groups said that the current committee members had only met once in 2012, once in 2013 and three times last year.

However, directors-general and members were entitled to NT$8,000 and NT$4,000 per month respectively, even if there were no meetings that month, civic groups said, adding that if a meeting was convened, only those who appeared are entitled to the money.

By contrast, the six Environmental Protection Agency committees, the Construction and Planning Agency, the seven committees of the Food and Drug Administration and the Food Safety Consulting Committee were only eligible for a flat rate of NT$2,000 upon attendance.

The committee has caused controversy since its establishment, having turned down nine proposals for nationwide referendums, including five proposals on the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, efforts to reclaim the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) illegal party assets and joining the UN using the name Taiwan.

Of the six referendums that passed the committee’s review, all failed to achieve the 50 percent of voters nationwide as mandated by law.

The civic groups called for an amendment to the Referendum Act, but the Executive Yuan turned down the requests and said the committee should not be abolished.

The issue of government members being entitled to payment without attending meetings has created negative impressions, Citizen’s Congress Watch president Shih Hsin-min (施信民) said.

Although they are small sums, it is nonetheless taxpayers’ money, Shih said.

The committee has too much power, so as long as some members attend a meeting, they can overturn a proposal backed by more than 100,000 people, Shih said.

The members are all highly educated, but have willingly become the tools of the ruler, often making decisions that belie their education, Shih said, adding that the committee should have been abolished a long time ago.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said that referendum reviews in other nations were mostly focused on procedure and do not pay too much attention to the topic of the referendum itself, adding that such reviews were usually handled by a court or an independent organization.

Only the Referendum Review Committee isunder the jurisdiction of the Executive Yuan has its members nominated by the president. It uses its structure to deprive people of their rights, Lee said.

In response to criticism, officials from the committee said the payments to members were based on the Executive Yuan’s Military, Civil and Teaching Staff Multi-duty Transportation and Seminar Hourly Fee Regulations (軍公教人員兼職交通費及講座鐘點費支給規定), which gave the option of offering monthly fees or attendance-based payments.

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