NEC opposes investigation of its election management
The National Election Commission (NEC) on Wednesday expressed opposition to a planned probe of its management of the 20th presidential election, arguing that the investigation could "infringe on the independence and neutrality" of its work.
The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) informed the presidential transition committee on March 27 that it will begin a formal investigation into allegations that the NEC mismanaged or poorly safeguarded ballots cast during early March voting in the presidential election.
The NEC has refused to meet with the transition team, saying it might appear improper ahead of local government elections in June, despite the transition team requesting a meeting to raise concerns about the management of the presidential election.
After the BAI said it would probe the NEC after the June local elections to "analyze the NEC's election management system to find room for reform," officials from the commission have protested that such an investigation could compromise the its impartiality and freedom from interference.
"The NEC is an independent organization under the Constitution and is difficult to see as the subject of a probe by the Board of Audit and Inspection," the NEC wrote in response to a written request from conservative People Power Party (PPP) lawmaker Kim Hyung-dong. "An audit by the BAI of the NEC, a presidential organization, could violate the Constitution as well as violate the independence and neutrality of the commission."
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an NEC official told the JoongAng Ilbo in a phone interview that the commission is already "conducting an internal audit of election-related work."
An unnamed source at the BAI told the JoongAng Ilbo that the the board does not view the NEC as being beyond its investigatory purview.
"Not only do allegations of poor presidential election management constitute a serious issue, but the National Assembly, the judiciary and the Constitutional Court are the only government bodies excluded from inspections by the BAI under the Board of Audit and Inspection Act," the official said.
News of the board's planned audit of the NEC was first broken on March 27 at an emergency press briefing held by PPP lawmaker Lee Yong-ho, who is charge of the presidential transition committee's legal and administrative division.
A transition official who spoke to the JoongAng Ilbo said he found the NEC's refusal to submit to an audit perplexing.
"The NEC has been audited four times in the past 10 years alone," he said.
While allegations of large-scale fraud or attempt to rig the March presidential election have not been substantiated, photographs showing poor safeguarding and transportation of ballots, especially those collected from Covid-19 patients in isolation during the election period, gave rise to criticism of the NEC.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]