[EDITORIALS]Public funds need overhaulThe Board of Audit and Inspection has noted that 24 public funds operated by government agencies, including the Information System Promotion Fund, are problematic and advised the Ministry of Planning and Budget to scrap them in the long run. The management of the funds has been a chronic ailment over the decades. It’s the same old story of slack and inefficient management, clumsy operation, and overlapping investment decisions. The problems have been repeatedly mentioned but have hardly been remedied.
Public funds is supposed to be strictly limited, only for projects that the regular budget cannot handle. However, each ministry has almost competed to create public funds because they can be used as an “additional purse” that is relatively independent from external intervention, such as by the National Assembly. One government agency operated as many as 11 different funds.
There are 58 public funds in existence, handling some 191 trillion won annually, which is nearly twice the national budget. Their operation is extremely clumsy and inefficient, and no one claims accountability for losses that can amount to several hundred billion won. Public servants even joke that possession of a public fund is nine-tenths of the law.
We urge the government to trim the public funds drastically. The government also needs to have the Office of the Prime Minister tackle the problems or create an inter-agency task force. Each ministry should not cling to its own interest but cooperate in the government’s efforts to enhance the national competitiveness and interest. Cooperation is the only solution to overcoming pressure from interest groups.
An effort to reform the overall system to enhance the efficiency of fund management should be pursued. By reinforcing the specialties of the funds and reshuffling human resources, the government agencies need to develop a risk management system. After all, a public fund is created with taxpayers’ money. We anticipate thorough and drastic action from the government since we do not want to see the taxpayers’ money wasted any more.