Prosecutors, MOE trade words over teacher 'graft'
By Joy Lee,The China Post with CNATAIPEI, Taiwan -- Senior government officials yesterday traded words with prosecutors on the punishments related to the recent corruption charges leveled against college professors.
January 6, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
The Changhua District Prosecutors Office (CDPO) said that 12 professors from four different universities worked with a company to invoice false receipts to claim reimbursements from schools. All the professors were charged with corruption.
The office said that the professors taught at four universities: National Chung Hsing University, National Yang Ming University, National Defense Medical Center and National Taichung University of Education.
Local reports also said that the Taipei District Prosecutors Office, the Banqiao District Prosecutors Office, and the Agency Against Corruption have all launched similar investigations, adding that over 100 professors have allegedly been involved in similar cases.
According to local reports, Education Minister Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) urged prosecutors to exercise leniency within their legal means.
Chiang said, “I hope that prosecutors can understand that talent nurturing is not easy, and that the cases can be handled in a flexible way.”
The Ministry of Education (MOE) issued a statement and said that many of the professors in the cases were probably not clear about the regulations regarding reimbursement, and that they probably did not intend to take the funds for private gain.
Prosecutor General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘), however, said, “It is not 'strict' to charge professors with 'corruption' over their use of false receipts.”
Huang also said that prosecutors did not intend to launch an attack on academia, adding that investigations were carried out according to regulations.
According to the CDPO, the professors charged with corruption did not use school funds for research purposes, adding that the funds were appropriated for their private use, which is considered as corruption according to law.
Prosecutors said that most professors confessed to the charges, adding that if the professors return the money or use it for research purposes, the court may grant probation.
Talents May Leave Taiwan: Chu
National Science Council (NSC) Minister Cyrus Chu (朱敬一) said yesterday that he was worried Taiwan may not be able to retain talent in light of the recent event.
Chu said, “I have no sympathy for those who use public funds for personal gain. However, some professors did use the funds for research purposes, but they only failed to apply for reimbursements in accordance with regulations.”
The NSC and the MOE are both worried that “corruption” is an overly strict charge leveled against the professors who did use the funds in question for research purposes, Chu said, urging the government to conduct a review on related regulations in order to set academia back on track.
National Yang Ming University President Liang Kung-yee said that indictments do not equate with convictions, and that the school will not “suspend” or “terminate” the professors' employment contracts, at least for now.
Chi-Huey Wong, president of the nation's highest research body Academia Sinica, said that it is not permissible to use public funds for personal reasons, but he hoped that the prosecutors would treat the case in a flexible way, especially toward “those who used the funds for research purposes.”
Wong said that many professors were educated in Western countries and did not know the regulations well, and that some didn't handle the reimbursement applications themselves.
Wong urged the prosecutors to be lenient.
One professor of National Taiwan University said the incidents stem from a possibly flawed system, adding that to conduct research is to race against time and often professors do not have the time to apply for funds according to normal procedures.