Year-end party gifts ‘unethical’: DPP

LEGISLATIVE ABUSE:A legislative office aide said that the practice was an old one and that in the past lawmakers had asked state-owned firms to sponsor trips abroad

By Tseng Wei-chen and Shih Hsiao-kuang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Mon, Jan 05, 2009 - Page 3

The long-time practice by lawmakers of asking for year-end party gifts from state-run companies has come under attack from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers, who called it unethical behavior that could damage lawmakers’ impartiality.

The DPP legislative caucus recently singled out Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) and Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進) for asking state-owned businesses to provide gifts for draws at their year-end gatherings, while KMT Legislator Lin Tsang-min (林滄敏) twice last year asked state-run companies to provide presents and souvenirs for participants for activities he organized in October and last month.

A senior legislative office aide who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the practice has been in place for a long time and that it was normal for lawmakers across party lines to ask for sponsoring from government institutions and state-run businesses.

The aide said that in the past there were even cases in which lawmakers asked state-owned businesses to cover their trips abroad.

Another official who asked not to be named said that some government institutions took the initiative by asking lawmakers if they needed sponsoring.

DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-ching (葉宜津) said she would not ask government offices to provide souvenirs, adding that compared with government corruption or the revision of laws benefiting certain groups or individuals, the practice was a “small evil.”

DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) voiced concern that while lawmakers are supposed to keep the government in check, asking for souvenirs and gifts from the government could raise public doubts about lawmakers’ impartiality.

The KMT legislators named by the DPP caucus, however, argued that the exchange of gifts was not a big deal.

Lu said she had asked state-run businesses to sponsor year-end parties she had organized, but added that she would also sponsor year-end banquets held by government-owned businesses.

Lu said sponsoring requests was not mandatory.

Lin said all the gifts he asked for were given to charity and volunteer groups for their banquets, not to his own.

“I don’t know what this controversy is all about,” he said.

Lee, on the other hand, said the exchange of gifts between legislators’ offices and state-run businesses was an old practice and that there was nothing wrong with it.