The Legislative Yuan’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee last week passed a preliminary review of a bill to amend the Organic Act of the Examination Yuan (考試院組織法). The proposed amendment would slash the number of Examination Yuan members from 19 to three, reduce their terms from six years to four and add three new qualification requirements.
The draft bill also stipulates that new members would be forbidden from taking a job in China while holding office and any member who breached this regulation would forfeit their position.
The committee deliberated on whether to preserve the institution of meetings for all members, but was unable to come to a conclusion and agreed to set the issue aside for cross-caucus negotiations.
The Examination Yuan is a unique branch of government and a rare institution in other governments. Under the terms of the Constitution, the Examination Yuan is responsible for administering national civil servant examinations and civil servant appointments, providing training, and protecting civil servants’ rights and interests.
Most countries set up similar organizations as quangos with semi-independence, at most establishing an independent, department-level branch, such as the British Civil Service Board, whose status is comparable to the National Communications Commission, Central Election Commission or Fair Trade Commission.
The Examination Yuan’s powers are separated into three departmental-level executive branches: the Ministry of Examination, the Ministry of Civil Service and the Civil Service Protection and Training Commission.
The Ministry of Examination is primarily involved in designing and administering tests for the selection and promotion of civil servants, as well as special personnel. However, it also sets examinations for professional and technical personnel. None of these tasks require their own ministry-level administrative body.
The Ministry of Civil Service is mainly responsible for appointments, promotions, pensions and managing the retirement of civil servants.
The Executive Yuan has the Directorate-General of Personnel Administration, which — in certain areas — has functions that overlap with those of the Ministry of Civil Service, and the Civil Service Protection and Training Commission.
The National Academy of Civil Service, the Public Service Pension Fund Supervisory Board and the Public Service Pension Fund could all be brought under the umbrella of the Executive Yuan.
The primary task of Examination Yuan members is to attend its meetings and jointly chair review meetings. Their other main task is to act as chairpersons of examination committees and perform additional examination functions.
Given that there are fewer than 10 ministers without portfolio in the Cabinet, there can be no justification for having 19 Examination Yuan members.
As for the diversity of sources of examination committee chairmen, when I was minister of examination from 2004 to 2008, several Examination Yuan members refused to chair examination committees because of a legislative decision ending additional remuneration for such duties.
In the long-term, an amendment to the Constitution to abolish the Examination Yuan and redistribute its functions to other government departments is required.
In the short to medium term, reducing the number of members is reasonable and legally sound, although there is still room to negotiate how many members there should be.
Lin Chia-cheng is a former minister of examination.
Translated by Edward Jones
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