A Taipei City staffer who handled reimbursements for Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) special mayoral allowance was found to have substituted receipts for smaller amounts with personal receipts for larger amounts in a bid to reduce his paperwork, a city official said last night.
In an attempt to simplify the reimbursement procedures for amounts ranging from NT$10,000 to NT$20,000 spent on items such as meals or newspapers -- which could total between 50 and 100 receipts each month -- the employee substituted his own receipts for larger amounts for several of the smaller ones, Taipei City Government Secretariat Director Lee Sush-der (
"It was simply laziness ... He wanted to save the trouble involved in issuing reimbursements for each and every receipt, and used personal receipts for larger amounts so that he didn't have issue so many reimbursements," Lee said.
He said the substitutions had not been discovered until the end of last month when the prosecutors began investigating Ma's use of the special mayoral fund.
More than 4,000 receipts, totalling between NT$700,000 and 800,000, had been "exchanged" in this way since 2003, Lee said.
Asked to compare this situation with the alleged use of fake receipts to claim reimbursement from the president's special "state allowance fund," Taipei's Law and Regulation Commissioner Chen Ching-hsiu (陳清秀) said there was "a whale of a difference."
"In the case of president's special allowance fund, they produced receipts where there was no actual expenditure. But in this case, there was actual spending. It's only a procedural blemish," he said.
Chen said there was no indication the staffer had pocketed any money from the mayor's fund, but the case has been reported to prosecutors for investigation.
When asked for a comment on the discovery, Ma said he was surprised.
Earlier yesterday Ma's personal assets came under questioning from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members.
DPP Legislator William Lai Ching-te (賴清德) and Taipei City Councilors Hsu Chia-chin (徐佳青) and Chou Wei-you (周威佑) told a press conference that Ma's personal savings had increased after he ran for the chairmanship of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Although they estimated that Ma had spent NT$30 million (US$915,503) campaigning for the chairmanship and covered his daughter Ma Yuan-chung's (馬元中) tuition and living expenses at Brown University in Rhode Island -- to the tune of about NT$1 million -- Ma's fortune still increased by about NT$4.4 million last year, Lai said.
The trio said they suspected part of Ma's campaign funds either came from his special mayoral allowance or illegal political donations, since he does not come from a wealthy family. Lai said Ma would have violated the Political Donation Law (政治獻金法) if he had accepted donations.
According to the deputy director of the Ministry of Interior's Department of Civil Affairs, Li Ching-chi (李清淇), who was at the new conference, the donation law stipulates that only those who run for governmental positions can accept political donations.
Violators risk being fined the amount of donations they accepted.
Lai also questioned whether the New Taiwanese Cultural Foundation, a think tank established by Ma after he won the 1998 Taipei mayoral election, helped Ma with political fundraising during the KMT campaign.
The trio urged the ministry to investigate whether Ma has broken the law.
In a separate press conference, the DPP caucus asked why the KMT caucus had tried to see Minister of Justice Morley Shih (施茂林) yesterday afternoon, questioning whether their KMT colleagues were trying to interfere with the investigation of Ma's use of the mayor's special allowance.
KMT Spokesman Huang Yu-cheng (黃玉振) dismissed the accusation that Ma had broken the law by accepting donations, saying the mayor had on campaign expenses by using volunteers and sponsorship from supporters.
“We do not want to respond to these groundless accusations … Chairman Ma spent as little money as possible when campaigning,” Huang said at KMT headquarters.
As for trying to see Shih, KMT Legislator Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) said the DPP caucus had their facts wrong.
“We initially planned to see Shih last Friday, but the visit was postponed to this afternoon because of a change in the minister's schedule,” Tseng said.
He said the KMT caucus visits the Ministry of Justice, prosecutors and Investigation Bureau every year to express support for the government's anti-vote buying measures.
“Today's visit with Shih was for that purpose,” Tsai said, adding the lawmakers had not discussed the probe into Ma's special allowance fund.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan
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