A pitiful portrait of audit board

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A pitiful portrait of audit board

Yang Kun, the head of the Board of Audit and Inspection, officially resigned yesterday, even though his term of office had 19 months remaining. In his farewell address Yang said he believed that fulfilling his job as head of the nation’s top government watchdog was “a prime responsibility and duty mandated by the Constitution.” However, he also said, rather shockingly, that he did not attach great significance to continuing his role as head of the board anymore. Naturally, rumors and suspicions are swirling about the true reason for his resignation.

What attracts our attention most is his euphemistic rhetoric: “If you disregard the principle of independence due to changes in the situation, it is tantamount to selling your soul to someone else,” he said. “During my term, I struggled to raise the independence of our organization despite an opposing current and pressures from inside and outside, but to no avail.”

His speech sounds quite strange given that he had conveyed the impression he had been closely watching what the new administration wanted from him. In fact, he should have taken the lead in safeguarding the neutrality of the board more than anybody else. The BAI would not be mired in controversy today if he had kept the integrity of the organization free from political pressure.

At the same time, however, it is very hard to make light of the potential ramifications of his remarks - like “If you forsake independence here, it is same as selling your soul to others” or phrases like a “opposing current” or “pressures from inside and outside.” We have seldom heard such a candid - and explosive - confession, despite the persistent suspicions over the BAI’s excessive wielding of power through close communications with the new Park Geun-hye administration.

The BAI is an independent body that checks the appropriateness of the government’s spending and detects corruption and other wrongful acts by ministries and agencies. As seen in its flip-flop over the four-rivers restoration projects enthusiastically pursued by the former Lee Myung-bak administration - only this year saying the project was actually aimed at building a grand canal from the start - the BAI conducted politically motivated audits and inspections. We are shocked by the allegations that a senior secretary to President Park consulted with a high-ranking official at the BAI to attack the former administration’s engineering project.

All the circumstantial evidence alarmingly points to the possibility that the BAI and its head were playing politics. That clearly shows the shaky status of the government watchdog in Korea.
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