The National Assembly on Thursday abolished the controversial “special activities” funds given to lawmakers as to support their political activities, leaving a small budget for foreign-related work.
“As of today, the National Assembly abolishes the special activities funds allotted to all parliamentary committees, with the exceptions of the foreign affairs, national security and trade committees,” Yoo In-tae, the parliament’s secretary-general said in a briefing.
National Assembly Secretary-General Yoo In-tae (Yonhap)
“For this year’s special activities budget (which is already planned), we will only use what is necessary and return the rest. The budget for 2019 will be greatly reduced.”
About 6 billion to 8 billion won ($5.3 million-$7.1 million) is set aside in the National Assembly budget every year for special activities. Liberal civic group the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy has charged that the money was allotted like an “extra salary” to ranking and party leaders, without requiring proof of how they were used.
This year, 6.2 billion won was planned for special activities of lawmakers. About 500 million won will be left to support overseas business trips for the National Assembly speaker and the rest will be returned, according to an aide at the parliamentary speaker’s office.
The secretary-general also explained the National Assembly will accept all requests made for information disclosure of its national budget usage, and conduct thorough inspections to wasted money in their planned budget.
Thursday’s announcement comes after the PSPD requested the legislature disclose the usage of the national budget during the 20th National Assembly. The Assembly rejected the request, citing the sensitivity of the information.
Prior to Yoo’s announcement, National Assembly Speaker Rep. Moon Hee-sang and chief lawmakers of parliamentary committees held a lunch meeting to draw out an agreement over the budget.
“It has been reported in newspapers that we will abolish the special activities fund. Now, there is nothing we can do but to prostrate and obey public opinion,” Moon said.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)