Put audit board back on track

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Put audit board back on track

The sudden resignation of Yang Kun, chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection, shows the shaky status of the nation’s top government watchdog. Despite simmering suspicions over his abrupt departure, it could ultimately be attributed to his lack of will to safeguard its independence. President Park Geun-hye must carefully select a replacement who can keep its neutrality from outside political pressure.

Yang reportedly decided to resign to protest the Park administration’s attempt to appoint Jang Hoon, a political science professor at Chung-Ang University and former member of President Park’s transition committee, as a member of the inspection committee. Because members of the committee give final approval to results of the BOA’s inspections, political independence should be a must. However, obsessively making an issue of political neutrality also can be misleading as Jang will likely be on the seven-member committee, not the BAI chairman. If appointed, he must be able to quell suspicions over independence.

But the real reason for Yang’s resignation could be the BAI’s inconsistent inspections of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s signature four rivers restoration project. The board found nothing wrong with the civil engineering project in its 2011 inspections under the Lee administration. In its third inspection this year under the new Park administration, however, it excessively adhered to the safety issue of the dams on four rivers, not to mention a conclusion that the project was aimed at building a grand canal from the start. But the reality tells otherwise. A sight survey of the Nakdong River shows it would be nearly impossible to reinvent the dams as part a canal.

Yang was reportedly embarrassed after the board’s third inspection was stretched to the grand canal issue far beyond corruption. That could suggest the possibility of a politically motivated inspection. If so, Yang should have toured the Nakdong River in person and corrected the inspection. Without such guts, he’s not qualified for the job.

Because Yang was appointed by former President Lee Myung-bak, he was under heavy fire from the pro-Lee faction after the board’s the latest findings. But he deserves such criticism because the BAI failed to maintain independence. If it flip-flops under a new administration, that is not a normal government body. The BAI must be armed with strong conviction as to its independence. Yang may say he did his best, but the results show otherwise. A new chairman of the board must reestablish its independence.
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