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May 28, 2017

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Accounting Act amendment legal: Speaker Wang

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Amid the string of accusations, debates and apologies following the passage of an Accounting Act amendment, and despite public opposition, Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday declared the revision a "legal act."

The controversial amendment, called Article 99-1, passed on May 31. It was designed to exempt legislators and professors from being audited over research budgets and special allowance funds. Eyebrows were raised over a so-called "typo" in the amendment — the omission of the word "professor" — which went undiscovered until after its passage.

In response to media proddings for an apology, Wang stated that the amendment, once passed, is a legal decree and will stand as legitimate despite the many opposing voices.

Amendments are passed only with the consent of all party caucuses during a Legislative Yuan session. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) had taken the brunt of accusations concerning the opposition party's involvement in the passage and apologized last Thursday.

President Ma Ying-jeou followed Su and apologized the next day, promising that the amendment would be reconsidered by the Executive Yuan before he signed it.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) also apologized, bowing alongside fellow legislators in an effort to take responsibility and to express a desire to right the amendment.

Reconsideration to be Broached Today

Spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen (鄭麗文) announced the Cabinet's decision to propose a reconsideration of the article on Saturday.

Wang, who attended two college graduations yesterday, said that "as speaker of the Legislative Yuan and a ruling party member, I care very much about the amendment." He has reportedly asked all political parties to discuss the reconsideration procedure today.

"Everything (about the reconsideration) will be carried out according to the legal procedures," Wang said.

According to Cheng, the Cabinet will only propose reconsideration but not a revision, with the original version to be invalidated should the reconsideration receive approval from all caucuses.

Records of Article Negotiation Lacking

Negotiations over law amendments in the Legislative Yuan are required by law to be recorded on video, audio tape and in written notes. This was violated on May 31 as the negotiations on and passage of Article 99-1 were reportedly not recorded in any way.

The Official Gazette Department of the Legislative Yuan reported that it had not received orders asking for personnel to keep track of the negotiations, and nor did it receive any actual records after the negotiations.

Legislative laws also require that all caucus representatives personally sign a conclusion document after reaching a consensus in negotiations. The document is later required to be acknowledged in a Legislation Yuan session and listed for future reference.

Kuomintang (KMT) caucus whip Lai Shyh-pao (賴士葆) allegedly refused to sign the consensus document owing to the issue's controversial nature, and the signatures of two legislators were not signed personally; examples that the negotiation procedure was possibly illegitimate.

Wang declined to respond to a demand from Citizen Congress Watch that the Legislative Yuan publicize records of the negotiation procedure, but he insisted that legislators will push for a solution regarding the erred amendment as its content affects thousands of professors and the field of education in general.

"We shall discuss further revisions to the article if the reconsideration is approved," Wang concluded.

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