[EDITORIALS]Lawsuits against local officialsTo allow residents to check budget waste by local government heads by filing suits against them, the government finalized a draft law on residents’ right for filing a suit against local government heads, aiming at implementation sometime next year. Separately, local referendums, through which residents decide pending issues directly, will be implemented starting from July. Enactment of a law, under which residents can recall local government heads when they commit irregularities or manage the administration arbitrarily, is under way too. For healthy development of local autonomy, it is desirable that measures enabling the participation and supervision of residents are enacted one after another.
Currently, there are provinces where the local head’s party dominates the local council. In such provinces, it is true that the local councils can’t check the local heads. Following the decentralization plan, the central government plans to delegate its power drastically to the local governments. The power of local heads will grow stronger. It is problematic that there is no administrative means to correct the wrongs even if the local heads waste tax money in pork-barrel projects and commit wrongdoings. They are even exempt from the punishment of the Board of Audit and Inspection. Indictment under criminal charges is the only way to punish them, but they can still exercise their official duties behind bars by signing official documents. We need a system of checking them.
Despite such good intentions, it is likely that the residents’ right to file suit against local heads can be abused. If opposition parties or political enemies try to attack local heads using the system, it would be difficult to manage normal operation of local governments. The conditions for filing a suit must be strictly prescribed. To discourage a rush of lawsuits in the early stage, it is necessary to increase the number of petitioners, limit the object of a suit to finance and accounting affairs and clarify the limit of periods and procedures of the suit. And all law suits must be preceded by the residents’ demand for an audit of the administration.
If lawsuits filed by a single petitioner are allowed, the side effects would be clear. Local heads should not be shackled to the degree they can’t work as they please.