Posted July. 15, 2005 03:02,
On July 13th, it was discovered that the National Assembly has provided lawmakers who are on a business trip to foreign countries with money to assist important missions through making up a budget of about 400 million won annually under the name of special activity expenses. These special activity expenses allow the National Assembly to spend money without revealing what they used the money for.
This fact was revealed after Dong-A Ilbo analyzed lawmakers trips to overseas countries and their expense accounts one year after the 17th National Assembly was launched in June 2004.
During that period, lawmakers made 57 overseas trips total, and with few exceptions, each lawmaker was offered special expenses worth $1,000 (about one million won) separately from business trip expenses, which include flight costs, basic staying costs, etc.
According to the Ministry of Planning and Budgets rule, special activity expenses should be offered only to Cheong Wa Dae, the National Intelligence Service, and other investigation authorities so that they can use the money in special tasks and investigation activities without being required to prove the use of money with receipts.
The National Assembly, however, has made use of the money for other purposes such as prestige maintenance expenses. In 2005, 403.37 million won was set aside under the name of special activity expenses for the National Assembly. Usually, state ministers are not provided with such money.
The established practice in the National assembly is to offer $1,000 and $500 to each lawmaker and accompanying secretariat worker, respectively. Usually, one to four secretariat workers are included in one delegation. An official of the Secretariat of the National Assembly said, That money comes from the special activity expenses.
For example, 5.7 million won was offered to each of the five lawmakers who visited the Turkish Congress, and 11.17 million won was offered to each of the nine lawmakers of the Korea-U.S. Diplomatic Committee who paid a visit to the U.S. last March.
Therefore, there are voices pointing out that making up budget for special activity expenses and spending the money is an act of wasting budget money by the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, 57 overseas business trips by lawmakers cost 3.45 billion won, which means that each trip cost 60 million won on average
On overseas business trips, money for flights, hotels, meals, gifts to give local figures, banquets inviting local Koreans, as well as flight and basic staying costs is offered to lawmakers, indicating that they are already being provided with enough money to maintain their prestige without the special activity expenses.