Massive audit of secret gov’t accounts will exclude NIS

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Massive audit of secret gov’t accounts will exclude NIS

The Board of Audit and Inspection said Tuesday it will launch a massive audit into the special expenses accounts of 19 key government offices, including the presidential office.

The audit board said 20 inspectors will review spending of the special expense accounts of the 19 offices starting Wednesday. In addition to the presidential secretariat, the national security office and the presidential security service of the Moon Jae-in Blue House, key ministries of the administration including the justice, defense and foreign affairs ministries will be audited - but not the National Intelligence Service, as it has a number of special expenses accounts that must remain secret, the audit board said.

Special expenses accounts exist for almost all government offices for activities that require confidentiality. Because no receipts are required, the accounts are often used for non-official purposes.

“The National Assembly and media continuously criticized the lack of transparency in the special expenses accounts,” said Chun Kwang-choon, spokesman of the Board of Audit and Inspection. “The need for an audit was raised after the recent scandal about a dinner involving money-stuffed envelopes.”

In April prosecutors and Justice Ministry officials had dinner, during which a senior prosecutor and a ministry director gave envelopes stuffed with cash to each others’ juniors. Following media reports about the incident, Moon ordered an inspection in May. Lee Young-ryeol, then the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, and Ahn Tae-gun, then the director of the Criminal Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Justice, were dismissed from their posts. They told inspectors they used the special expenses accounts of the prosecution and the ministry to give out money gifts.

According to the Board of Audit and Inspection, the government allocated 893.8 billion won ($795.6 million) for special expenses accounts last year. The National Intelligence Service was given nearly 493.1 billion won of the budget, while the Ministry of Defense was given 181.4 billion won, the National Police Agency 130.1 billion won and the Ministry of Justice 28.58 billion won. The presidential secretariat and the national security office of the Blue House received 12.49 billion won and the presidential security office was given 10.7 billion won, the audit board said.

Separately, the National Assembly has 8.1 billion won in special expenses accounts and the Supreme Court has 320 million won.

The Korea Taxpayers’ Association made a request of information disclosure last month and obtained more specific information about the special expenses accounts from the Ministry of Strategy and Finance. According to the report, the Blue House heavily relied on special expenses accounts compared to other ministries, except for the National Intelligence Service, accounting for about 12.9 percent of its spent budget.

As for the Board of Audit and Inspection, 3.1 percent of its budget was spent on special expenses accounts, while the National Assembly spent 1.4 percent, the National Police Agency 1.3 percent and the Ministry of Justice 0.9 percent.

In May, Moon pledged to reform the presidential office’s heavy reliance on special expenses accounts, ordered the Blue House to cut its budget for such accounts and requested an improvement for other government offices.

“We will conclude the audit before we submit next year’s government budget bill to the National Assembly on Sept. 1,” said Kim Tae-woo, deputy spokesman of the audit board. “We will closely cooperate with the budget authorities to make sure that the audit outcome will be reflected immediately when creating budget plans for next year.”

BY PARK YU-MI, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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