Office stole from taxpayersAccording to an investigation by the Korea Independent Commission against Corruption, the Seongbuk District Office paid 4.7 billion won ($5 million) to its employees for overseas business trips that never took place and 100 million won for overseas educational programs that did not exist during the last two-and-a-half years. Sixty-five percent of the district office’s employees received the money. Their ethical problems are serious. On the day the commission finished its investigation, some employees were found filling out fake business trip forms.
The Seongbuk District Office relies on outside sources for 63 percent of its finances. The district office came in 16th among 25 districts in Seoul for financial independence. While many residents live difficult lives due to economic hardships and increasing taxes, district employees were stealing tax money. The tax money was in the wrong hands. That is why public employees are often criticized.
The government should investigate other district offices and find ways to prevent this from happening again. The Seongbuk District Office even said other district offices are not much different. However, the city of Seoul said it cannot audit business trip-related expenditures because that is the duty of district offices. It is difficult to know why the city of Seoul, which financially supports the district offices, cannot audit the district offices’ expenditures. Either Seoul should change the rules or the Korea Independent Commission against Corruption should take up the matter. Other cities and provinces are no exception.
The commission asked the head of the Seongbuk District Office to collect the money paid for the fake business trips and reprimand those involved. However, if the district office chief rejects the request, there is no other way to solve the issue. That is absurd. The head of the district office has the ultimate responsibility.
Some local governments, such as Ulsan, revolutionized the personnel system this year and improved its service to residents while the Seongbuk office chief overlooked wrongdoing by insiders. If he did not know, it means he is incompetent, and if he knew, he intentionally overlooked wrongdoing.
Seongbuk residents and civic groups have said they intend to reprimand the district office chief with the new system that enables residents to oust their local representative.
If he does not punish those involved or is irresponsible in dealing with the issue, the new system should be implemented. This should teach us that selecting the wrong representative can mean the constituency’s demise.