Taiwan's premier tries to avert charges against 6,000 officials Taiwan's special expenses controversy, which is threatening to trigger an island-wide political witch-hunt, has forced Premier Su Tseng-chang to seek ways to avert more than 6,000 officials being charged with corruption. In addition to Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou, who is also chairman of the opposition Kuomintang, senior officials such as judicial head Weng Yueh-sheng, Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien and Mr Su could face charges. Speaking at a legislature meeting yesterday, Mr Su said there was a need for clarification of the rules governing the expenses system. 'We will ask the Ministry of Audit to provide a clear explanation of the issue so that various sectors will have a better understanding of the nature of the expenses and how they should be spent,' he said. Kuomintang lawmakers, including Kao Shih-po, pointed out yesterday that because of the ambiguity of the regulations governing the system, which was originally meant to help subsidise senior officials' public-affairs spending - including items such as gifts for civil groups and individuals - had pushed the officials into unwittingly committing crimes. Under the system, which has been in use for more than four decades, senior officials, including the vice-president, premier, cabinet ministers and the heads of local governments and departments, are allocated special monthly expenses ranging from NT$5,000 (HK$1,188) to NT$400,000 to help meet costs. Half of the expenses does not need receipts for spending claims, while the other half does. The expenses have been treated by officials as personal subsidies to enable them to solicit support from civic groups or citizens by offering wedding gifts and funeral condolences. Many officials have been lax in filing receipts for spending claims, some even using fake receipts to submit claims for expenses. Mr Ma was the first to be hit after ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers accused him of embezzling special expenses as they attempted to divert public attention from scandal-plagued President Chen Shui-bian. Mr Chen has been accused by prosecutors of embezzling special state-affairs funds, but cannot be charged due to his presidential immunity. Instead, his wife, Wu Shu-chen, was charged with helping him pocket NT$14.8 million in state funds over the past four years. The couple have denied wrongdoing. Mr Ma's woes came about after one of his aides was found to have used receipts provided by others to account for NT$1.4 million in special expenses during the past three years. The mayor has denied any knowledge of the wrongful use of receipts. Mr Ma, the opposition's best hope for the 2008 presidential election, was questioned by prosecutors twice this month, prompting his allies to retaliate against government heavyweights including Mr Su, Ms Lu and even the head of the judiciary. Yesterday, former Tainan vice-mayor Hsu Tsai-li, whose wife, Kuan Bi-ling, has launched a series of attacks on Mr Ma, was listed as a defendant by prosecutors investigating similar allegations. Prosecutors said they had found evidence of the wrongful use of the receipts for spending claims. They also listed incumbent Tainan mayor Hsu Tien-tsai as a defendant.