|NPP calls for financial transparency before vote|
NO EASY ACCESS: People who wish to view a city councilor’s financial statement must first register with the Control Yuan, and are not allowed to take pictures
By Shelley Shan / Staff reporter
The Legislative Yuan should quickly pass an amendment to make the financial status of city and county councilors more transparent ahead of November’s elections, New Power Party (NPP) legislators said yesterday.
NPP Chairwoman Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) and NPP Legislator Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) made the remarks after signing a financial transparency pledge at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, along with the party’s candidates for the upcoming nine-in-one local elections.
The party has pushed to amend the Act on Property Declaration by Public Servants (公職人員財產申報法) since 2020, after city and county councilors were charged or accused of contravening anti-money laundering regulations, Chen said, adding that some were even accused of using fraudulent claims to apply for subsidies for their assistants.
“We believe the public should be able to view the financial disclosure statements of city and county councilors online, just as they can with other civil servants,” she said. “The legislature should quickly fix the loopholes by passing the amendment.”
When the act was first passed in 1993, councilors of the special municipalities and the then Taiwan Provincial Consultative Council were obligated to file financial disclosure statements, which could be published in government gazettes, Chiu said.
“However, an amendment to the act passed in 2007 inadvertently exempted city and local councilors from having their financial statements published online or in government gazettes. This is a sign of democratic backtracking,” he said.
“We support the Executive Yuan’s version of the amendment, which will rectify the situation,” he added. “If passed before the end of this month, the amendment would be in effect for the November election. The public would be able to examine more complete profiles of candidates running in the election.”
Under current regulations, a person seeking to view the financial disclosure statements of a local city councilor must first register on the Control Yuan’s Web site and state the purpose of their inquiry, Hsinchu County Councilor Lien Yu-tien (連郁婷) said.
“They are also banned from transcribing, taking pictures or recording video while reviewing the information. No one would know the contents of the financial disclosure statements unless they review them at the Control Yuan and commit them to memory,” she said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Wei-chou (林為洲), who is running for mayor of Hsinchu County’s Jhubei City (竹北市), has more than a dozen properties in his name, Lien said.
Some of the properties are also associated with former Hsinchu City councilor Cheng Hung-huei (鄭宏輝), who is running for mayor of Hsinchu City, she said.
“Cheng invested in a postpartum care facility in Hsinchu City, which was accused of abusing infants. He is obligated to tell voters how he can effectively oversee postpartum nursing care homes without any conflict of interests,” she said.
Chiang Hsing-yi (江欣怡), an NPP candidate for Keelung City councilor, said that some of the young councilors and candidates who claim to have no major financial backing have managed to buy billboards and rent trucks to promote their campaigns.
“How can they afford such expensive campaigns on the salary of a city councilor?” Chiang said, adding that voters can only learn a candidate’s financial status if they are required to disclose it.
Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) said that city and county councilors are already required to file financial disclosure statements.
“It is just that people now want the information to be readily accessible to whoever wants to know,” Tsai said.