Legislators exploit assets declarations

The China Post staff

Legislator Yen Ching-piao has only NT$3,010 in his bank account. His colleague, Fu Kun-chi, has a little more, NT$81,705. Those are the latest figures from the assets declarations that incumbent lawmakers, each of whom is paid NT$306,346 in monthly salaries and allowances, have given to the Control Yuan, the country’s highest government watchdog. Of the 87 lawmakers who have already reported their assets to the watchdog, 15 claim they have no bank savings to declare. But don’t think that they are poor. National and regional parliamentarians and government officials are required by the law to make annual statements of their personal wealth, plus that of their spouses and underage children. But according to the law, they do not have to report their bank savings under NT$1 million. So when a lawmaker says he or she has no savings to declare, it only means that there is less than NT$1 million in the bank account. In Yen and Fu’s cases, neither of them were required to report the meager savings, but they did. Neither of them, however, is poor. In his declaration, Yen, also chairman of the one of Taiwan’s most popular temples, Chenlan Temple in Tachia, reported a debt of over NT$40 million.

But he owns 41 plots of land and five housing units, plus an investment of more than NT$41 million. Fu, considered a major stock player, appears utterly broke with his meager bank savings balance, stocks worth NT$50,000, and no real estate. Some “cash-strapped” lawmakers owe heavy debts. Legislator Lo Chih-ming has taken out a loan of NT$47 million, and Legislator Cheng Yu-chen has borrowed over NT$300 million. But Control Yuan members say some lawmakers are hiding their assets, admitting that there are loopholes in the existing system. Many lawmakers and officials transfer their wealth to their adult sons and daughters or their parents, none of whom is required to make financial statements to the watchdog, observers say. Others deposit their money in overseas accounts, they add. Fu’s aides yesterday explained that the lawmaker’s statement accurately reflected his financial status at the time the declaration was made, according to the China Times Express. Some lawmakers claim they really have no money. Legislator Ho Min-hao, who has declared no savings, says he has no investments or other incomes, and the monthly pay from the Legislature is barely enough to both support his family and run his office. But there are affluent lawmakers, with eight of them reporting savings of over NT$10 million each.