[EDITORIALS]Let public see money trailsThe recent behavior of political parties concerning their state funds is outrageous. Because government agencies are wavering on the issue, the public has doubts that demands for higher transparency in political funding will be met.
The Bureau of Audit and Inspection has tried to examine each political party's use of state subsidies for the first time in the agency's history. Faced with organized resistance and a reluctance on the part of the parties and companies to cooperate, inspectors abandoned field scrutiny for paper inspections. Under these circumstances, the opposition Grand National Party introduced a bill that would block the audit bureau from inspecting the National Election Commission, which doles out the funds to political parties. Such a move raises suspicion that the proposal is a vendetta for the bureau's probes into the party's affairs.
Considering that Korean law bans the Bureau of Audit and Inspection from examining the legislature and the judiciary, including the Constitutional Court of Korea, excluding the election committee from the audit bureau's eye would not be completely inappropriate because the panel also is a constitutional institution. But if politicians have a good reason for their demand, they should solve the issue through public discussion.
Political parties are subject to auditing because they receive taxpayers' money. Having received 26.7 billion won ($20.7 million) this year alone, they are acting unfairly in an attempt to avoid scrutiny. An audit by the National Election Commission in July discovered that political parties used state subsidies as they pleased. Parties were found to have made false reports about how the money had been spent; therefore, state inspections must be strengthened.
The election commission, which seems to side with the political parties in an apparent attempt to preclude auditors' scrutiny into its own operation, deserves criticism. So does the Bureau of Audit and Inspection, which bowed to the parties' resistance.
In a timely ruling, the Seoul Administrative Court stated that the public has the right to know how taxpayers' money granted to political parties is being spent. Parties must permit the inspection and submit records on how the funds were used.