Audit policy, not politics

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Audit policy, not politics

The inspection of government offices by the 18th National Assembly starts today. These inspections serve a good purpose but they have created many negative side effects in the past.

Even without the inspection of the government offices, Assembly committees can open hearings and ask questions related to the government’s policies and thus check the executive body.

In the United States and other developed countries, checks during the year are not unusual. Of course, the government audit body in the United States is an arm of the U.S. Congress, whereas it is under the president’s direct supervision in Korea. Thus, there are differences in the auditing by the legislative body outside the period of the National Assembly inspections.

The revival of National Assembly inspections in 1988 was the product of democratization under a political situation where the opposition held the majority in the Assembly. But 20 years later, some are arguing for the scrapping of the inspection.

Leaving aside the debate about the pros and cons of the inspections, the priority should be productive management. The inspections shouldn’t be a political, but a policy, audit. Digging into scandals is the task of the Prosecutors’ Office and the Board of Audit and Inspection. While it would be good if lawmakers can disclose to the public confirmation of suspected irregularity, the National Assembly can only disclose. It does not have the power to investigate.

Furthermore, careless disclosures by National Assembly members in order to compete for headlines can be damaging. This should not be the main task. The legislative body should monitor the executive body’s policy failures and focus on negotiating future-oriented policies. They should first check whether the policies flagged the previous year have been properly rectified. They should refrain from calling in civilian witnesses in large numbers and demanding unnecessary documents.

There is concern that this year’s inspection will be too politicized. The ruling party will aim to disclose the failures of the Roh Moo-hyun administration and the Democratic Party.

On top of this, if first term lawmakers get excessively greedy for attention instead of focusing on policies, we fear a slew of unnecessary disclosures and avid attempts to grab the headlines.

What we need are calm heads more than passion in the forthcoming inspections.
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