Legitimacy of lawmakers’ ‘business trips’ questioned

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Thu, May 30, 2013 - Page 3

With lawmakers spending millions of dollars on “business trips” during the past three legislative sessions, Citizen’s Congress Watch (CCW) questioned whether the trips were all for business and called on lawmakers to explain to voters what they accomplished during the trips.

“It’s been almost three sessions since this legislature was sworn-in [in February last year] and the eight legislative committees have spent altogether 162.5 days and tens of millions of dollars on business trips,” CCW executive director Chang Hung-lin (張宏林) told a press conference at the legislature in Taipei.

“Not a single trip report was submitted or publicized and we have no idea with whom these lawmakers have met, what they have seen or what they learned during these trips,” Chang said.

“It’s questionable whether these ‘business trips’ were for business or if the lawmakers are spending taxpayers’ money on personal travel,” he said, adding that if the legislature requires government officials to produce reports after each business trip, lawmakers should do the same.

According to official figures from the legislative gazette, the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee tops the list with 49 days on business trips in the past three sessions, followed by the Transportation Committee with 31 days.

Chang especially criticized Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wong Chung-chun (翁重鈞), who represents Chiayi County, as he took members of the Finance Committee to his constituency five times in a period of two months from March 25 to May 23 as convener of the committee.

“As a committee convener, he should be concerned with the needs of people across the country, not just those in his own constituency,” Chang said.

Wong denied the accusation that he is only concerned with his own constituency.

“As a convener, I’ve also arranged trips to other places, such as Taichung,” he told reporters.

“It’s important for lawmakers to travel to different places around the country and hear the people, so we can come up with proposals to fulfill their needs,” Wong said.

KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾), a member of the Transportation Committee, said the frequent trips actually showed that lawmakers are working hard.

“The Transportation Committee deals mostly with the construction of transport infrastructure,” Lo said.

“Of course we need to travel to check whether budgets we’ve passed are spent in the right way and to check on the quality of the construction,” he added.