Do Not Allow Cronyism to Raise Its Ugly Head
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 8, 2008
The Papua New Guinea diplomatic relations scandal reached an interim high on Tuesday. Three cabinet members, Chiou I-jen, Huang Chih-fang, and Ko Cheng-heng submitted their resignations. This is merely an interim high. Many details have still not been made public. Whether future arrests will be made remains unknown. Leave aside the prospect of criminal prosecution. The political pressure alone is enough to give these politicians a sharp warning.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for the PNG case, for its operation and financing. Minister of Foreign Affairs Huang Chih-fang says he was merely acting on orders from Deputy Premier Chiou I-jen. Compare this to the earlier Taiwan Goals arms procurement scandal and Sunny Bank funding scandal. The common denominator is Chiou I-jen. Minister of Defense Li Tian-yu was forced to step down because of the Taiwan Goals arms procurement scandal. Vice Minister of Transportation Ho Nuan-hsuen and Financial Supervisory Commission Chairman Hu Sheng-cheng approved the transfer of Postal Savings funds to Sunny Bank. Accord to reports all of them acted on orders from Chiou I-jen. The Executive Yuan was working as a tightly-knit team. It is not improper for government agencies to act on orders from the Vice Premier. But if they violate normal procedures on verbal commands from Chiou I-jen, without even bothering with written documentation, then there is a serious problem.
When Chiou I-jen said he wanted to tranfer funds for foreign power brokers, to transfer tens of billions of dollars in Postal Savings funds, to set up an arms manufacturing firm, not one minister dared ask him for written orders. Not one of them dared ask Chiou's superiors, the Premier or the President, to confirm Chiou's orders. This tells us that Chiou I-jen was a crony close to the center of power, a "Son of Heaven" who must not be crossed.
Once cronyism rears its ugly head, civil service procedures become irrelevant. They are merely FYI: For Your Information. Even Huang Chih-fang, Li Tian-yu, Hu Sheng-cheng considered the process defective, but dared not complain too loudly. They knew that even if they reported the matter to the emperor in person, in all probability he would cover for his crony. Everything would remain as it was. The only difference would be a blot on their own records. Knowing this in advance, officials outside the inner circle are not about to challenge orders from cronies inside the inner circle. Over time, as long as a crony issues verbal orders, or pretends that the orders were communicated from "higher up," lower echelon officials will not dare to ask for written documentation from their superiors. They will not dare to ask "higher ups" to confirm the orders. Needless to say, they will not dare to put forth different views. The damage has been done. When will new scandals come to light? It is only a matter of time.
Cronyism within Chinese political circles did not begin with the Chen regime. How much influence court officials and imperial relations have, has long depended upon how close they were to the emperor himself. Forget ancient history.
Wang Sheng, during the Chiang Ching-kuo era, and Su Chih-cheng, during the Lee Teng-hui era, were classic examples of cronies who wielded power not commensurate with their official positions. When Liu Tai-ying was at the height of his power, he controlled the KMT's party enterprises. It was said he could even humiliate then Premier Vincent Siew by "keeping him after school." Su Chih-cheng let it be known that older, higher-ranking officials answered to him. To Chiang Ching-kuo's credit, he ended Wang Sheng's reign once he was alerted to it. But Su Chih-cheng and Liu Tai-ying remained in power until Lee Teng-hui left office.
Chen Shui-bian era cronyism can be divided into two periods. Before Wu Shu-tseng, Chao Chien-min, Chao Yu-chu, and the "Ladies MacBeth" came under suspicion, Ma Yong-cheng was the Chen Shui-bian regime's most important crony. The young Ma was not only the President's Chief of Staff, he was an extension of the will of Wu Shu-chen. In addition, his wife was surrounded Huang Fang-yen, Michael Chang, Madame Luo and their ilk. Although they had no official status, they were immensely powerful. They had the power to broker deals at whim. They too were cronies, in the broader sense of the word. Following the "Ladies MacBeth" involvement in the State Confidential Expense case, their spokesman Ma Yong-cheng was forced to step down. The rest of the "Ladies MacBeth" and cronies then kept their heads down. As a result, for the past two years Chiu I-jen has been in charge. The PNG scandal, the Taiwan Goals scandal, and the Sunny Bank scandal, all happened on Chiu I-jen's watch. They all happened after crony Ma Yong-cheng stepped down. From this we can see the crucial role of cronies at the emperor's side.
Legislator Ker Chien-ming said that perhaps Chiou I-jen was "smart for a lifetime, but stupid for a moment." But the raison d'etre of standard operating procedures is to prevent officials from being "stupid for a moment." Whether Chiou I-jen was stupid, smart, or greedy is not the point. Once the workings of a government become palace intrigue, once official documents are replaced by verbal commands, once official procedures are replaced by "guanxi," then cronyism has already replaced constitutional government and the rule of law. In the history of mankind no one has ever been immune from Lord Acton's Iron Law: "Power corrupts." From a political science perspective, democracy requires the separation of powers, a restricted mandate, regular elections, and checks and balances. Their purpose is to prevent just the sort of abuses committed by Chiou Yi-jen. Chiou I-jen sat within the inner circle of power, immune from legislative oversight, immune from institutional constraints. Chiou I-jen and constitutional government parted company long ago. How could someone who studied political science be as stupid as this?
巴紐案執行操作與付款的是外交部，但是部長黃志芳卻聲稱他是受副院長邱義仁之命而辦事。我們再把先前爆發的鐽震案與陽信銀行撥款案做比對，就發現其中的共 通點：因鐽震案下台的國防部長李天羽、同意郵政儲金轉存陽信的交通部次長何煖軒與金管會主委胡勝正，據報載也都是奉邱義仁之命而辦事。行政院團隊固為一 體，機關首長奉副院長之命辦事也不能說錯，但是若因邱義仁之口頭指示就跳過所有的標準作業程序，甚至連個書面文件都付之闕如，那就問題嚴重了。
當邱義仁說要撥款外交掮客、要轉存百億郵儲、要成立軍火公司時，沒有任何一位部長敢向長官要一份書面手諭、敢向長官的長官（如行政院長、總統）查證原意， 這就凸顯出邱義仁是今上親信、是權力核心、是惹不得的天子分身。一旦親信政治當道，所有的官僚標準作業程序就只能閒置一邊，僅供參考。即使黃志芳、李天 羽、胡勝正覺得程序上有瑕疵，也絕不敢多所造次，因為他們知道，就算把事情原委呈報聖上，天子袒護親信的機率也極高，到頭來一切回歸原點，只是徒然平添了 自己的一項汙點。預知事後如此，外圍官僚在事前就絕不敢對宮廷內圈的親信有所詢問。久而久之，只要是親信口頭交辦事項，甚至謊稱是「上面」的意思，下層官 員就不敢請長官書面下條子、不敢向「上面」查證、當然更不敢提出不同意見。發展至此，則親信政治之危害已經造成；至於何時會爆發弊案或醜聞，只是機運問題 而已。
華人政治圈的親信政治當然不是從扁政府開始；歷代皇帝身邊的宦官外戚近臣能有多大影響，就看他們與皇上「有多親近」。上古史不 談，蔣經國時代的王昇、李登輝時代的蘇志誠，顯然都是權力與官職極不相稱的親信典型。在劉泰英當紅時代，還曾經以黨營事業小主管的身分，聲言要把當時的行 政院長蕭萬長「留校察看」。而蘇志誠對外放話斥責年齡、輩分、官銜比他高得多的政壇大老，更是時有所聞。王昇的親信地位在蔣經國的警覺下告終，但蘇志誠與 劉泰英則是權傾一時，直到李登輝卸任為止。
回過頭來看看陳水扁時代的親信政治，大概可以分為兩個時期。在吳淑珍、趙建銘、趙玉柱這些夫 人派涉案之前，馬永成是扁政府最重要的親信。小馬不但是總統辦公室的主任，更是吳淑珍意志的延伸。除此之外，夫人身邊諸如黃芳彥、張兆順、羅太太之流，即 使完全不屬官僚體系，都有呼風喚雨、到處喬人事的能耐；他們也是廣義的親信。在夫人涉入國務機要費案件之後，其代言人馬永成下台，其餘夫人派親信稍事收 斂，於是最近兩年成就了邱義仁的天下。我們回顧巴紐、鐽震、陽信等諸多邱義仁所涉之案，都是在第一親信馬永成下台之後的發展，可見成為皇帝身邊第一親信之 關鍵。
立委柯建銘說，邱義仁也許是聰明一世、糊塗一時；然而從制度面來看，標準作業程序原本就是為了避免官員糊塗疏忽而設。邱義仁糊不 糊塗、聰不聰明、貪不貪心都不是重點；一但政治運作由行政官僚變為宮廷核心、由書面作業改成口頭指示、由體制運作轉為人際關係，則親信政治就已然成形。人 類歷史上從沒有人逃得過艾頓爵士「權力使人腐化」的鐵律，從政治學理來看，民主政治之權力分立、有限授權、定期改選、相互制衡等設計，就是要防堵像邱義仁 這樣的濫權。邱義仁身處權力核心之最內圈，不被國會監督、不受體制約束，走到這一步就已經是偏離了政治的常軌。一位念政治學的人糊塗至此，究竟聰明在哪裡 呢？