SEOUL, Government auditors said Wednesday they have discovered widespread misconduct in civil servants’ business activity expenses.

The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) said it has inspected 19,679 records of such expenses from the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and 10 other government bodies and found 1,764 cases of inappropriate usage.

Of the improper spending, legal violations and misappropriations were suspected in 35 cases, the BAI noted.

But the board said it has not found any problem with the business expenditure of Cheong Wa Dae’s presidential secretaries.

In South Korea, business activity expenses are allotted to heads and senior position holders at government offices to help cover unofficial operating expenses, including restaurant and entertainment costs.

The authorities strictly prohibit private use of them, usually paid for with credit cards, and impose limits on the place and time of their spending.

The BAI said many loopholes still remain in the execution of such expenses in the public sector.

For instance, an official at the Ministry of the Interior and Safety is accused of spending 250,000 won (US$221) in activity expenses on drinking with an acquaintance at a karaoke bar after midnight in November 2017, the BAI said.

A Ministry of Justice official was caught spending 910,000 won on personal foodstuffs at a neighborhood supermarket over the two years beginning September 2016, while another official at the interior ministry bought coffee shop gift certificates and other commodities for personal use worth 2.92 million won between September 2017 and last October.

The BAI has asked the heads of the ministries concerned to take disciplinary action against those officials for their inappropriate spending.

It also said a number of government ministries and agencies have unlawfully diverted their business expenses to other purposes not stipulated in the regulations.

On the other hand, Cheong Wa Dae steered clear of trouble.

A total of 2,461 records of business expenses incurred by the presidential office on holidays, weekends and during late-night hours from May 2017 to September last year came under scrutiny but none of them were found inappropriate, the BAI said.

It explained that most of Cheong Wa Dae’s unusual expenses which were questioned by an opposition lawmaker during the National Assembly’s inspection of government offices last year were for policy consultations with lawmakers and reporters.

Rep. Shim Jae-cheol of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party raised the transparency issue, arguing presidential secretaries had dined at a luxury Japanese restaurant where the cheapest dish sells for nearly 100,000 won.

But the BAI said presidential secretaries’ dining at an upscale restaurant appeared to be inevitable due to security reasons.

Source: Yonhap news Agency