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Does Taiwan still need the Control Yuan?

Publication Date : 06-07-2014


Taiwanese lawmakers wasted the last day of their extraordinary session during the summer break on Friday bickering over nominations to the highest government watchdog, the Control Yuan.

They were supposed to vote on the candidates to the watchdog, but the voting had to be called off amid a strong boycott by opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers, who called the nominees the worst the Control Yuan has ever seen.

The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers, in return, vowed to take legal actions against their DPP counterparts, accusing them of illegally blocking the voting process. The KMT lawmakers also vowed to have the Legislature convene a fresh extraordinary session by the end of the month to vote on the candidates.

The bickering doesn't look “strange” and the ending of a meeting without the lawmakers finishing their jobs seems “normal.” Everything played out as expected.

But we still need to ask why almost all nominees to government bodies have to suffer such, often humiliating, questioning about their integrity before they can have the chance to receive the necessary parliamentary approval.

Is the problem purely on the parliamentary side, where opposition lawmakers are apt to reject everything that the ruling party proposes? Or are there really problems with the candidates themselves or with the people, namely President Ma Ying-jeou, who nominated them.

The public can't really tell. We need the parliament to show us which of the candidates are eligible, but opinions have been so polarized among lawmakers that we don't know who to trust.

President Ma is definitely eager to see parliament approve all of the nominees he picked. The reason is easy to see: it would show that he was right in picking them, and he wouldn't want to lose face.

So for Ma, the parliamentary screening should only be a formality; the nation must trust his selections without having to know whether or not these candidates can do the job.

Some KMT lawmakers have reportedly revealed that Ma's right-hand man King Pu-tsun has sent a former classmate of his to lobby KMT lawmakers in favour of the candidates.

King, secretary general of the National Security Council, asked that all of the candidates receive the nod.

Then what's the point of the screening? One side is bent on failing the candidates, and the other side is eager to let them all pass. The candidates themselves do not seem to matter.

And perhaps there is one more ultimate question we need to ask: Do we still need a watchdog institution that seems toothless?

The Control Yuan has the authority to investigate wrongdoings within the government institution and impeach and censure any civil servants and offices that are at fault.

But we have often heard rumors about the Control Yuan avoiding thorny issues.

A former official of the now defunct Government Information Office was fired a few years ago for bad-mouthing Taiwan openly in articles he wrote under a pseudonym.

He stood to lose all of his pension, only to be rehired recently by another government body weeks before reaching the retirement age. Now he has reached the retirement age and can receive a monthly pension of about NT$60,000 (US$2,000) after working for only a few weeks.

The Control Yuan earlier was urged to open a probe into the hiring process. But it did not take action after an initial probe. After coming under public pressure, it has censured the government body that hired the official.

But that won't change the fact that the official will be entitled to the pension, according to one Control Yuan member.

And what's the point of the censuring of that government body? The censure won't shut it down.

Perhaps we need some drastic reform to the government institution to get rid of a toothless watchdog that just watches but doesn't act.


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