Go after tax wasters

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Go after tax wasters

At his first press conference since his inauguration as head of the Board of Audit and Inspection in February, Yang Kun yesterday announced his plans for effective oversight on the way the Lee Myung-bak administration spends tax money. His scheme is targeted at eradicating corruption among government organizations and monitoring budget waste.

He will reportedly pay special attention to national and local leaders, massive projects, taxes, education and defense. At the same time, he vowed to concentrate on conducting an intensive audit on local governments squandering people’s tax payments on glitzy projects they simply cannot afford, and to deal with corrupt officials on a zero-tolerance basis.

Corruption in the public domain and tax waste are two peas in a pod. In particular, resource abuses by officialdom is equivalent to cheating. Unfortunately, news about budget embezzlement and bribes has become no news at all. It is not surprising that our country’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranked at 39th among 178 countries in a recent survey.

The shameful practices vividly exposed in the scandal surrounding Busan Savings Bank, which fattened the pockets of Financial Supervisory Service employees in return for them turning a blind eye to its corruption, is just an example. No doubt the bribes came from people’s wallets, more specifically from the 17 trillion won ($15.6 billion) the government took out from coffers to save debilitated savings banks across the country.

Tax waste is more frequent. Construction of the Wolmi Galaxy Rail, a monorail that would link Incheon Station and Wolmi Park for tourism, is indefinitely suspended due to colossal corruption, even after 110 billion won in taxes was invested. Countless heads of district offices enjoy free tours overseas on the pretext of learning about advanced administration, and a local government covering less than 100,000 people builds a stadium that needs a 75 billion won budget.

Local government heads host expensive events all the time, with their officials engaged in executing their bosses’ audacious plans without looking into their feasibility. And nobody appears to take responsibility for their worsening financial situation.

Keeping tabs on the use of taxpayers’ money is the government’s job. It should call corrupt officials and tax wasters to account on civil as well as criminal grounds. We will watch to see if Yang keeps his promise.
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