Political audits

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Political audits

The National Assembly’s inspection of the government will take place between Oct. 6 and 20. The laws relating to the inspection were democratically established in 1988 and such inspections have been made for the last 20 years.

Their purpose is to probe possible corruption and misgovernance. However, the inspections have often become occasions for competing propaganda campaigns by the ruling and opposition parties and a waste of time and money.

In a time when international financial turmoil threatens the welfare of the people, the audit needs to become an opportunity to motivate and check the administration. Unfortunately, there are already worrisome signs that it will be a political inspection.

The Democratic Party said the inspection should call to the witness stand President Lee Myung-bak’s son-in-law and nephew, the first lady’s cousin, senior council members of the ruling Grand National Party and current and former lawmakers.

“They are suspected of corruption using their political clout, and under related laws, they can be called to the witness stand if not become subject to legal action,” the DP said.

However, the Assembly is not equipped to find out anything, since it has no right to carry out a criminal investigation. Those the DP wants as witnesses are already being investigated by prosecutors. With the ruling party holding the majority in the Assembly, there is no chance that they will be called as witnesses.

If politicians keep pushing the inspection too far like this, there is a likelihood that the inspection will become just another political battle.

Data are as important as witnesses. If the Assembly wants to dig into the state of the government, it needs timely access to necessary materials. However, the government often refuses to provide the right materials to lawmakers, citing a number of reasons, or ends up giving incomplete information.

Under the law, those who refuse to provide materials without justifiable reason are subject to up to three years in prison or a 10 million won ($8,749) fine. Still, there have been accusations against witnesses who failed to show up, but not against those who did not provide requested materials.

Making excessive demands for data is an issue, but the government needs to comply when the demands are reasonable.

Bucking precedent, the government and ruling and opposition parties should make this inspection successful.
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