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Double-faced BAI

Posted May. 24, 2017 07:05,   

Updated May. 24, 2017 07:09


It was Jeon Yoon-cheol, former chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI), introduced the concept of a policy audit to the organization that used to conduct mostly financial audits and inspections of government officials’ duties. When he was inaugurated in November 2003 at the early stage of the Roh Moo-hyun presidency, he said, “We will establish an assessment system on major government policies and projects and be committed to policy audits.”

Jeon, a financial veteran official who served as a deputy prime minister under the Kim Dae-jung administration, put pressure on the officialdom by inspecting major economic policies, which were not in the scope of audits under former administrations, including the special inspection of the credit card crisis, the reform of the financial supervisory system, and an inspection on the lax management of state-owned properties. As he often had to discipline officials, he even complained that it is hard for him as he has to make enemies around him. Newly appointed ministers visited his office to say hello before starting to work.

Lee Hoi-chang, a former BAI chairman, got a nickname “a split bamboo” when he inspected sanctuaries – the presidential office, the military and the National Safety Planning Ministry (now National Intelligence Service) --during the inspection on the corruption of the Yulgok Project, a military project, in 1993. Han Seon-heon, former BAI chairman under the Kim Dae-jung administration, was respected for his strong will and Kim Hwang-sik, also former BAI chairman, was admired for his heartfelt and soft leadership. Yang Geon, former BAI chairman who was appointed at the late stage of the Lee Myung-bak administration and resigned at the early stage of the Park Geun-hye administration, conducted two audits into the four major river project around the change of the administrations and released different audit reports because he had to care for both the declining power and the emerging power.

The intention of a policy audit is good but it can be used as a tool for political retaliation depending on how it is used by the government. When the president has power, the BAI conducts an audit on the implementation of the president’s campaign pledges. When the adminsitration changes, it opens up the faults of the previous administration. Its limits is related to the nature of the organization, which directly reports to the president. This is why President Moon Jae-in pledged to increase the BAI’s independence and transfer the financial audit function to the National Assembly. It is pathetic to see it conduct the fourth audit on the four major river project at a time when the presidential archives of the Lee administration are sealed. That said, can new BAI Chairman Hwang Chan-hyun who was ordered to conduct the audit, finish his term until the end of the year?