Clean Government Committee is a Loose Cannon: Professor Ke Must Act
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 14, 2015
Executive Summary: Just what is the Taipei City Clean Government Committee doing? What does
it want? Many people want to know. Ko Wen-che became Taipei Mayor by a
landslide. We would like to believe that when he established this
committee he wanted to get at the truth and uncover corruption.
Unfortunately as facts now show, the committee itself has become a
source of chaos, and responsible for the destruction of the rule of law.
The committee itself has become a problem that must be fixed.
Full Text Below:
Just what is the Taipei City Clean Government Committee doing? What does it want? Many people want to know. Ko Wen-che became Taipei Mayor by a landslide. We would like to believe that when he established this committee he wanted to get at the truth and uncover corruption. Unfortunately as facts now show, the committee itself has become a source of chaos, and responsible for the destruction of the rule of law. The committee itself has become a problem that must be fixed.
Problem One. Its status is unclear. This must be addressed. The commission is not a statutory body. Given its name, it sounds like some sort of anti-corruption agency, like Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption. But this committee was established through administrative procedures. Its function is merely advisory. It is not a statutory body. First, it has no formal investigative powers. Second, it cannot issue orders to the municipal government. Third, it has no budget or staff. It can only operate under the administrative authority of the Taipei City Government. It can only access information from affiliated agencies of the municipal government.
The Democratic Progressive Party has long criticized the KMT government for black box operations that lack legal foundation. The "Clean Government Committee" was established without the consent of the legislature or the city council. It is not subject to public oversight. Therefore the committee itself is a black box operation. Mayor Ko says he respects the integrity of the independent investigators on the committee. That is nonsense, since the committee is not independent, and its members are not investigators.
Problem Two. The status of the members is unclear, and fails to meet basic standards. Since the commission is merely advisory in nature, it should merely advise on matters of corruption and transparent governance. Yet since its establishment, members have made no constructive suggestions. They have merely followed the mayor's orders, and latched on to the five so-called "scandals". Many members stage frequent photo ops with designated media channels. They spin the government's official data according to their own subjective perceptions. They attempt to mislead the public about the five alleged "scandals" and make them forget that the commission members are “expressly required to respect confidentiality."
The performance of the committee members has been poor. Their reports have been sketchy. Strictly speaking, they are even inferior to term papers presented by the average graduate student. Much of their terminology is inaccurate. They often resort to emotional language. They often indulge in wild speculation instead of than rigorous exposition. Most outrageous of all, they never even interviewed the accused. They merely listed their names in their report, then challenged them "take the initiative to come forward to explain" when indicted.
Since the committee wants to refer the cases to the justice system, it must of course state why. But if one examines the report, its main argument is the "inference" that the mayor held a secret meeting with the manufacturers in order to alter the contract for private advantage, therefore the Taipei City Government should refer the case to the Ministry of Justice.
The committee failed to note that this “secret meeting place” was the conference room of the Taipei City Government. Many people attended this open meeting which was held in public. What precisely makes it a "secret meeting"? Also, the Ministry of Justice is not the governmental entity the case should be referred to. The commission's actions had nothing to do with its advisory function, and everything to do with framing the Taipei City Government. It brought Ko Wen-che another step closer to the partisan political battles the people detest.
Many people have been hoping that Ko Wen-che would transcend blue vs. green partisan bickering, and introduce a breath of fresh air into Taiwan's political atmosphere. Mayor Ko Wen-che's personal style is indeed candid. He does want to create a new municipal government. Unfortunately, the status of the committee was unclear from the outset. The status of its members was also unclear. It eventually became utterly detached from its original purpose. It became what many intellectuals fear, a new generation fascist white terror black box operation.
Mayor Ko has long been willing to engage in self-examination and change. This is why many people support him. The commission is a loose cannon. Mayor Ko must be bold and decisive. He must not permit himself to be hijacked by the committee. He must ensure that the committee operates on the basis of the law, promotes clean government, and upgrades the quality of committee members. Mayor Ko must launch committee version 2.0 to correct existing mistakes. He must ensure that the committee is as honest and transparent as originally advertised.