Cabinet, legislature pass buck on Accounting Act

Cabinet, legislature pass buck on Accounting Act

By Chris Wang, Chen Ching-min and Stacy Hsu / Staff reporters, with staff writer and CNA

Both the administrative and legislative branches of government yesterday refused to take responsibility for correcting an omission in an amendment to the Accounting Act (會計法) that means a large number of professors could still face prosecution for allegedly misusing receipts to claim government reimbursements.

A revision to the Accounting Act was rushed through the legislature late on Friday night, ostensibly to exempt more than 500 professors from having to have their government research grants audited by government controllers. The amendment also exempted elected officials from being prosecuted over their special allowances.

However, it was later found that the word “teaching [faculty]” was missing from the amended act’s Article 99-1, which describes groups of people who could be exempted.

Correcting the mistake would require a veto from the Executive Yuan or a Legislative Yuan decision for a reconsideration.

However, the Executive Yuan yesterday said it would not veto the amendment since the proposal was initiated by lawmakers, rather than the administrative branch.

“With respect to reconsideration, it is the right of the Legislative Yuan and we would respect whatever decision the lawmakers eventually make,” Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) said.

“If the legislature applies for reconsideration on the amendment, the Cabinet will respect its decision,” she added.

Both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucuses said the Executive Yuan should veto the amendment, with DPP caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) saying that the Legislative Yuan was in recess and the amendment proposal was reviewed by the Executive Yuan before it was sent to the legislature.

The Executive Yuan could solve the problem by adopting an “extensive explanation” of the clause, which is within its authorization, to include professors in the decriminalization package, Ker said.

If the Executive Yuan refused to adopt an explanation, then it should veto the amendment and send it to the Legislative Yuan for a vote, Ker added.

National Taiwan University Hospital physician Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who is among hundreds of professors under investigation for allegedly misusing receipts to claim government reimbursements, said the legislative oversight “was either a treacherous move or a stupid one.”

“I am of the opinion that the legislature [passed the amendment] not for the sake of addressing the legal conundrum faced by the professors, but to get former independent legislator Yen Ching-piao (顏清標) off the hook,” Ko said, adding that the omission underscored the government’s hasty and slipshod quality of legislation and policymaking.

According to the Taichung District Prosecutors’ Office, Yen, who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for using nearly NT$20 million (US$670,000) in taxpayer money to visit hostess bars and who has been in jail since Feb. 19, will be released when the act takes effect.
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focustaiwan.tw/news/aipl/201306030041.aspx
Jailed ex-lawmaker to be released following amendment

2013/06/03 23:06:04

Former Legislator Yen Chin-piao (right) reports to the district prosecutors office in Taichung to serve his prison term on Feb. 19. (CNA file photo)

Taipei, June 3 (CNA) Former Legislator Yen Chin-piao will be released once the amended Accounting Act takes effect, the Taichung District Prosecutors Office said Monday.

Yen, who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for using nearly NT$20 million in taxpayer money to visit nightclubs, has been in jail since Feb. 19.

Deputy Chief Prosecutor Tsai Tsung-hsi said the Ministry of Justice has decided that the amended act applies to Yen’s case, and Yen will be released when the act takes effect three days after it is announced by the Office of the President.

Chang Ching-tang, a former speaker of the Taichung City Council, who is also serving a sentence for misusing public funds at nightclubs, will be released at the same time, Tsai said.

The revision of the Accounting Act, which exempts research grants given by the government to professors and special allowances for elected officials from being audited, cleared the Legislative Yuan late Friday.

(By Tsai Pei-chi, Chen Ching-ping and Jamie Wang)
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KMT to blame for controversial vote: DPP’s Ker

By Chris Wang / Staff reporter

Citizen’s Congress Watch supporters protest outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday against an amendment to the Accounting Act that decriminalizes some irregular uses of public funds. The amendment was passed late on Friday last week.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) should be held accountable for an amendment that decriminalizes the involvement of elected officials, professors and staff at colleges and academic institutions involved in irregularities in the use of public funds, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said yesterday.

The public has criticized the DPP for being an “accomplice” in the passage of an amendment to the Accounting Act (會計法) in the legislature at midnight on Friday, with Ker singled out by fellow DPP lawmakers for “unilaterally offering the DPP’s endorsement without the consent of the entire caucus.”

“Everyone should understand that the amendment was submitted by the KMT because a number of high-ranking KMT officials, including Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), were involved in misuse of public funds,” Ker told a press conference.

The amendment’s passage has been described by critics as a “midnight ambush.”

The legislation would exonerate former independent legislator and Taichung County Council speaker Yen Ching-piao (顏清標), who is serving a three-and-a-half-year prison term for misusing public funds and other councilors facing similar charges.

It would also clear about 700 university professors, including National Taiwan University Hospital physician Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who are under investigation for misusing receipts to claim government reimbursements.

Although the public has criticized all four parties that endorsed the initiative in a closed-door negotiation for Yen’s imminent release, most of the criticism has fallen on the DPP.

The DPP’s priority was to help professors and other academics, but “politics is always about making compromises,” which was why local councilors were also included in the amendment, Ker said.

Ker said he raised the issue of the decriminalizing the misuse presidential state funds, which would apply to former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) involvement in a corruption case, but the KMT lawmakers had turned down the idea.

“I don’t know why the KMT, the ruling party with a legislative majority, suddenly seems to have vanished from the public’s view and everyone is talking about holding the DPP accountable,” he added.

He denied that he made the decision to back the amendment unilaterally, saying he had discussed it with other DPP lawmakers in the caucus meeting on Friday morning and no one had voiced opposition at the time.

DPP Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟), who has been the most prominent critic of Ker’s actions on the vote, said he was not at the caucus meeting.

My vote is going to Green Party. :no-no:

Good choice.

Comments on this article on Taipei Times blamed the KMT, but I bet most DPP lawmakers voted on it, too.

Your tax dollars at work.