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[Op-Ed] Gov’t Reform: Rhetoric or Action?

Posted April. 20, 2009 07:42,   


The state-funded Korea Development Institute is under fire for lax management. The Board of Audit and Inspection found that Chung Chin-seung, the former dean of the institute’s School of Public Policy and Management, gave himself raises in salary and bonuses every year over his six-year term from July 2001 without approval from his immediate supervisor, the institute’s director. Chung’s annual salary rose twice as high as that of the faculty, receiving a bigger salary than the director in 2006, just a year before his retirement.

Fifteen professors of the school were absent without leave for 186 days from 2005 to last year to play golf or travel abroad for pleasure. Eleven of them played golf on 105 weekdays, while nine made 35 overseas trips without getting proper approval. Some did both. It is questionable whether research and lectures were properly conducted at the institute. The irregularities at the graduate school have marred the image of Korea’s leading state-run think tank for economics.

On Saturday, President Lee Myung-bak told the heads of state-funded organizations to either reform their organizations or resign. He also criticized unions at certain state-funded companies and their chief executives for lobbying against the reform drive. At a time when taxpayers are going through rough times amid the economic crisis, chief executives and unions at state-run organizations should implement reforms and share the pain. Many state-run organizations, however, want to remain immune to the difficult times.

The government should not utter empty threats against them. Previous administrations pledged public sector reform at every opportunity but failed to sever the link between lax management and irregularities. The government must perform surgery on such public organizations, which enjoy greater job security than public servants.

Kim Hwang-sik, chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection, attributed the lax management at state-funded organizations to loosen managerial ethics, illegal labor relations, and an “onlooker” attitude of supervising ministries. Calls for reform that bring no results make taxpayers angry.