[EDITORIALS]Public funds blame gameThe government recently launched a task force to address public fund controversies. It seems also to take other proactive actions to counter the accusation that it has mismanaged public funds. Well may it do so. The scale of mismanagement deserves such attention; it shocked Koreans. We demand that the government strictly punish those held accountable.
A considerable number of civil servants seem ready to avoid their responsibility. Deputy Prime Minister Jin Nyum appeared on television Saturday and said it would take at least a few years to rightly judge who is responsible for mismanagement of public funds. "I cannot agree to the argument that public funds are mismanaged," Mr. Jin said. Granting that it is difficult to evaluate government policies in a short period, his remarks can be interpreted as an attempt to avoid accountability.
Ill-directed policies are more attributable to the dip in public funds than to the stashing away of money by the officers of the corporations given public funds to keep them afloat. The Board of Audit and Inspection reported that the government had wasted 11 trillion won ($8.5 billion) through wrong decisions. It can be hard to distinguish between mismanagement and poor decisions. But two things are beyond controversy. The government spent 18 trillion won in 2000 to meet the cash calls of investment trust securities companies with exposure to bonds issued by near-bankrupt Daewoo subsidiaries. And it allowed Daihan Investment Banking Corporation and Nara Banking Corporation to resume operations in 1997, and the firms were forced to close down in 2000, adding 2.3 trillion won to the public fund drain. There are also suspicions that powerful politicians were involved in allocating public funds, and that auditing agencies, including the Board of Audit and Inspection, overlooked the practice.
Public funds have been used in emergencies. Trial and error are inevitable. But that is why we need proficient evaluations on the administration of public funds to prevent future mismanagement. The white paper published by the government last year lacked the necessary evaluation of policy administration. We do not have patience to put up with government officials who try to avoid accountability.
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