Fee abuse bill passes 2nd reading

The China Post news staff

A bill sponsored by the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU, 無黨團結聯盟) to decriminalize the misappropriation of special allowances for elected representative and public officeholders passed its second reading at the Legislature yesterday. With its scope expanded to cover all levels of public office holders, the proposed measure, however, was clouded by allegations that it was specially crafted to help a lawmaker sentenced to three and a half years behind bars.

The bill will remain on the table pending further deliberations for a month. Further action on the bill beyond the next 30 days, however, remains possible until the Legislature goes into recess in mid-December. In the meantime, Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng will oversee consultations between the parties.

According to the NPSU version of the bill, people who applied for, handled, verified, and actually spent special allowances, including subsidies of a similar nature, such as research stipends, government-financed compensation and overtime pay for assistants and office expenses June 30, 2009, will be absolved of all their financial, administrative, civil, and even criminal liabilities.

Having dealt with central-level public officerholders, it is appropriate that we deal their grassroots counterparts next, Wang told reporters yesterday, adding the crux of the matter, however, was whether or not violations were intentional.

We are going to have a new beginning and a new set of regulations to be observed by all, Wang said. Whether the bill will become law within the current legislative session and how it should be handled will depend on the outcome of the consultations, he added.

Meanwhile, allegations are afoot that the proposed bill was designed as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for convicted lawmaker Yen Chin-piao (顏清標) of the NPSU, who was sentenced to three years and six months in jail by the Taichung branch of the Taiwan High Court for drinking at night clubs at the public’s expense when he was speaker of the Taichung County Council in 1999.