Government agencies have cut budget set aside for special activity funds from next year’s budget plan amid mounting criticism on the opaque funds. Instead, they are sharply increasing work expenses and specific task expenses. According to an analysis of the proposed budgetary plan for 2019 by The Dong-A Ilbo, the budget for special activity funds is slashed by 9 percent, 29.2 billion won, while budget for work expenses and specific tasks rose by 3.1 percent (5.8 billion won) and 5 percent (38.4 billion won), respectively. As a result, the budget for 2019 has increased by 15 billion won compared to that of 2018. This is nothing but a cheap trick to use taxpayers’ money as their pocket money.
The Moon Jae-in administration declared that it would correct ill practices and system within the government when the scandal concerning prosecution’s improper use of special activity funds broke out in May last year. As a result, there was a significant cut to special activity expenses by 71 billion won and to work expenses by 20.8 billion won but an increase of 40.2 billion won in specific task expenses. Last year, a total of 50 out of 53 government agencies, where work expenses are allocated, submitted plans to cut their budget for work expenses. But in next year’s budgetary plan, only five government agencies slashed their budget for work expenses and four reduced their budget for specific tasks. The Moon administration’s firm determination to tighten its belt and use taxpayers’ money transparently has fizzled out only in a year.
The budget for these three expenses had been called official expenses before it was abolished in 1994. It is an obligation to report how work expenses and specific task expenses are spent, but quite a large amount from specific task expenses is given to individuals without such obligation. Under the former Park Geun-hye administration, a Chief Justice candidate resigned after it was revealed that he had been using specific task expenses (4 million won a month) for personal purposes. The National Assembly had to scrap special activity funds after civic groups and the media revealed how it had been misusing the money. On the other hand, special activity expenses for high-ranking government officials have been in the blind spot.
These three budget items in next year’s budget plan surpass 1.3 trillion won when combined together. It would be much bigger if special activity expenses for the National Intelligence Service were included. These opaque funds represent the privilege and ill practices enjoyed by government officials in the past. Special activity funds should all be scrapped, except for some special areas such as national interests. If expenses are necessary in particular area, it should be allocated under a single purpose and the documentary evidence on how the money is spent should be disclosed to the public.