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[Editorial] Wasting Budget Is a Crime

Posted March. 25, 2009 19:33,   


President Lee Myung-bak said in his biweekly radio address Monday that budget waste by public officials is a crime like tax evasion. “In particular, misappropriating public funds meant to help the poor is an unforgivable crime,” he said. The president also warned that a public official who embezzles public funds will be fined double the sum that he or she misappropriated. A new system will also track those who implement budget. His comments targeted provincial public servants who embezzled welfare subsidies.

The government should apply the same principles in implementing its supplementary budget of 28.9 trillion won (21 billion U.S. dollars) announced yesterday. At a time when a slew of countries are scrambling to revive their economies by injecting public funds, using the national budget is an inevitable step for the government to take to prop up the sagging economy. Given that delay in implementation of the extra budget will reduce its effect in overcoming the economic crisis and increase inflationary pressure, the government should waste no time in finalizing the extra budget plan and executing it. Ensuring the budget goes to where it is needed is also important.

Since the extra budget is geared to create jobs and help low-income earners, there is ample room for waste and misappropriation. To prevent this, every public official must use the budget as if spending their own money.

Those who abuse taxpayers’ money in the face of the unprecedented economic crisis must face stiff penalties. The president’s strong determination to root out corruption will ring hollow if public officials fail to follow it.

Collective agreements reached between government employees and the central and provincial governments after the enactment of the Public Officials Trade Union Act are riddled with poisonous articles that could lead to budget waste. Certain agencies provide union members with expenses for domestic and overseas trips in the name of union activities.

In certain organizations, collective agreements have nullified a law on government employees’ union that bans provision of union management expenses and wages for former union leaders. The people will never tolerate such agreements that ignore laws and waste tax money. Equally intolerable is the incompetent government unable to keep in check illegal acts in the public sector.