The government audit by the 18th National Assembly began its 20-day run yesterday. Both the ruling and opposition parties seem determined. The ruling Grand National Party is eager to correct policies and systems it claims have been distorted or become left-leaning over the past 10 years, including under the term of the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration. The opposition camp, including the main opposition Democratic Party, will highlight the mistakes and suspicions the incumbent Lee administration has endured over the past seven months.
Regardless of party lines, if a goal is too big or too partisan, it is likely to provoke political dispute. All government audits have invited bipartisan bickering. Twenty years have passed since the first audit and now is the time for change. Above all, the focus should be on whether taxpayers money is well spent.
The National Assembly Budget Office has designated 100 government projects needing reconsideration. They have no systematic plans despite using a tremendous amount of taxes or show poor results and have low efficiency. A case in point is the trunk road construction project intended to increase national competitiveness. Among them are many overlapping projects as well. Hopefully, legislators can find out whether they are fiscally feasible and realistically consistent, regardless of party interests.
Many cases of budget waste, abuse and misuse are being discovered at the time of audit. Even under a basic science and technology plan by the previous Roh administration, 567 of 1,329 projects (42.7 percent) have produced no results such as thesis publication or patent registration. Five major national projects that have been suspended or delayed, such as the Saemangeum land reclamation project, have wasted 41 trillion won (32.23 million U.S. dollars). The liquidation of the light-water reactor in North Korea, a project in which 1.37 trillion won (1.08 million dollars) was initially invested between 2000 and 2006, will cost four times the money poured in at 6.05 trillion won (5.09 million dollars).
Since a budget supports the consistency of an administration, it is not easy to change direction even after inefficiency is found in implementation. Without correcting the fundamental problem, waste of taxpayers money is inevitable. It is necessary to thoroughly check the inefficient implementation of budgets or abuse of long-term government projects in the middle of the process. Simply finding mistakes is not enough. Both the ruling and opposition parties must work together to apply the lesson to their next budgetary negotiations.