Some Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials are living a life of luxury overseas and are abusing taxpayers’ money with their extravagant expenses, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators said on Wednesday.
The lawmakers made the remarks during a review of the ministry’s budget for the next fiscal year at the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee.
DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-Ying (邱議瑩) said the ministry’s official residences in the EU, Singapore, Indonesia, England and other places were overtly luxurious, with some houses taking up more than 300 ping (992m2) and costing NT$500,000 to NT$600,000 (US$17,000 to US$20,000) per month.
Chiu added that of the 118 residences overseas, she was shocked to find that there was great disparity between lodgings, saying that some were extravagant while others were merely passable.
Chiu asked why the ministry was unable to set a uniform standard for all overseas official residences and lodgings.
DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said the ministry was wasting national resources at a time when the nation was knee-deep in debt, citing the ministry’s official residence in Indonesia, which is located on a 242 ping area of property and has a swimming pool as an example of such luxury.
Tsai added that during the economic recession in Japan, the Japanese government had made adjustments to its foreign embassies, such as allocating funds to purchase the embassy buildings when the rent was too high.
“Why should diplomats be decked in silver and gold when the people they represent are poor and miserable?” Tsai asked, questioning why the ministry was unwilling to cut down expenses for its overseas officials.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said the case Tsai referred to did show some inequality and the ministry should contemplate how to ameliorate the situation.
In response, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) said that rental rates, areas in which the ministry could rent housing and security varied from country to country, so it would be difficult to apply a uniform standard.
Lin said that foreign officials’ offices represent the nation, and some of the private residences for ministry officials were important locations for them to socialize with peers from other nations and establish social connections.
According to the minister, the ministry was beginning to allocate funds to buy buildings for offices in Thailand, the EU and Chicago, but added that due to contract issues, the timing of complete purchases may or may not be delayed.
The committee nonetheless decided to freeze NT$10 million of the ministry’s funds for next year, adding that the funds would not be made available until the ministry and its accounting department had set a uniform standard and such a standard was passed by the committee.