President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday vowed to rid the nation of corruption at a ceremony marking the establishment of the Agency Against Corruption (AAC), while the opposition cast doubt on the neutrality of the new agency.
“After the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Panel [SIP] revealed a serious scandal involving several Taiwan High Court judges, I decided to establish the nation’s first anti-corruption agency,” Ma told the ceremony.
The purpose of the AAC is to prevent corruption, because prevention should precede crackdowns, he said, adding that its creation should deter public servants from engaging in corrupt activities.
“As the agency investigates corruption cases, one precondition is that it must collect sufficient evidence [of corruption] before it makes an indictment [of a public servant],” Ma said, adding that this should increase the conviction rate.
Ma said public servants who find themselves under criminal investigation would see their reputation severely jeopardized. Their families would feel the impact, spouses would not want to go to work and children would be afraid to go to school, Ma said, adding that because of this, the agency must be careful and precise in how it conducts investigations.
In the early days of Transparency International, a non--governmental organization that publishes a global ranking of countries based on their level of corruption each year, Taiwan ranked No. 25, Ma said.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
“Taiwan’s worst ranking was 39th place, but it has improved to 33rd place,” Ma said. “I have found that the top 10 countries in the ranking are all well-developed and highly competitive — and integrity is tantamount to competition.”
Turning to criticism that the AAC, which falls under the Ministry of Justice, does not have the power to carry out investigations against senior government bureaus and their officials and that it should have been made part of the Presidential Office or the Executive Yuan, as is the case in Singapore and Hong Kong, Ma said those fears were the result of a misunderstanding.
“Taiwanese prosecutors are only law enforcement officers who conduct criminal prosecution,” Ma said. “The AAC is headed by a number of prosecutors, so no matter where the agency is located or its level of authority, prosecutors can bring the cases to court without political pressure.”
The agency will investigate -corruption-related crimes and supervise the ethics divisions of various government agencies.
The AAC will be headquartered in Taipei and will have three branches in Taipei, Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung, with a total staff of 240 people.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday said it feared the new agency could represent a “second wind for the SIP, which has become a tool for the current administration to carry out political oppression.”
“We want to know whether the agency is for real, so the DPP has collected information on 10 [potential] corruption cases involving President Ma, who served as Taipei mayor in [some of] the cases, as well as Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌),” DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said.
In one case implicating Ma, Tsai said that during his first term as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman in 2005, Ma sold the Broadcasting Corp of China (中國廣播公司), China Television Co (中國電視公司) and Central Motion Picture Corp (中央電影公司) — all ill-gotten KMT assets — at a very low price.
Ma was also suspected of illegally rezoning land for the National Development Institute when he was Taipei mayor, as the party was in the process of selling KMT-owned property, Tsai said.
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