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By Jang Seong-hyun (voluntary activist)

 

As if celebrating the first day of 2013, members of the Special Committee on Budget & Accounts made the citizens frown by leaving for overseas training after hastily processing the budget plan. You may wonder what is so serious about the fact that they went for overseas trainings to increase the expertise of the legislative process. But you will think differently if you see the purpose of their overseas trainings. In order to learn an advanced system of budget supervision in person, they went to Africa and Latin America. It is curious which part of the budget supervision system is so advanced in Africa and Latin America that they went there even enduring the criticism of citizens.

 

  As such an issue captured the attention of citizens from the first day of the New Year, the Center for Freedom of Information (CFOI) requested information disclosure to some of central governmental agencies regarding official business trips of their public officials as below.

 


 2011-2012 Overseas business trips of the president and employees of the organization 

1.       Country

2.       Purpose and description of the trip

3.       Please disclose the cases classifying the purpose/total spending/date of accommodation fees, air fare, business expense

4.       Trip Itinerary

5.       Number of people (ex. 000 and XX others)

6.       Business Trip Report


 

  The answer from all the governmental agencies was that the requested information can be found at the Overseas Business and Training Information System (http://btis.mopas.go.kr).




   The public officials are required to register on the system when they are back from their overseas business trips. So it was their answer that the requested information can be found on the system by selecting Overseas Business Trip – Search report – Governmental agencies and Public institutions. We accessed the system as told.

 

  


 <Overseas Business and Training Information System (http://btis.mopas.go.kr)>


   In many cases, however, among the requested information, the budget on travelling expenses was not found on the Overseas Business and Training Information System. The public official in charge said there is an item related to the budget next to the <Attach Report>, but we could not find it.



<Overseas Business and Training Information System (http://btis.mopas.go.kr)>


 

  The public official in charge kept insisting that it can be found on the system but it was not visible for us. Possibly, the budget is only visible to public officials and the information is not open to the public. This issue requires a clear answer from the government if they are only disclosing the information to the public officials and if so, why they are operating the system in such a way.

 

  To say the conclusion first, the CFOI wasn’t able to obtain the information related to the budget. The reason is not only about the non-disclosure (?) of the budget. It is also due to the inconsistency between the central governmental agencies that were requested to disclose information and the Ministry of Public Administration and Security that administrates the Overseas Business and Training Information System. The central governmental agencies that was requested to disclose information claimed that the relevant information can be found at the Overseas Business and Training Information System but the Ministry of the Public Administration and Security said the information disclosure does not cover budget spending.

 

   The original information is obviously written by the public institution in charge. It is difficult to understand that the Ministry of the Public Administration and Security, who is only in charge of administrating the system, insists they cannot disclose the information which the responsible governmental agency is even willing to disclose. The responsible institution says that they don’t’ need to provide the information additionally since it is already published on the system. The Ministry of the Public Administration and Security says they are not required to disclose budget spending on the system and asks us to receive the information from the central governmental agencies. Then who is responsible for the information I want to know?

 

  In addition to the fact the budget is not open to the public, there were many cases that business trip plans and reports are poorly written or written several months after returning from training.

 

 

 <Regulation on Overseas Business Trips>

 

5. Submission, registration and post management of the report

Ga. Submission of the Overseas Business Trip Report

(1) The overseas business trip report (referred as “report” from here) needs to be submitted to the Minister within 30 days of the return.

(Ga) The report should specify in detail the main activities, implications and additional remarks consistent with the travelling purpose and result of the Overseas Business Trip Plan<Attached 1>

(2) Important issues related to the foreign affairs should be reported to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade in writing within 14 days of the return

 

Na. Registration of the report on the information distribution network

(1) Along with the <Attached 2>, the Minister should make the received report registered on the Overseas Business and Training Information System.

(Ga) But in case of the preservation of the national secret and the security, it is possible not to register the report. But in this case, the reason of the non-disclosure should be specified and reported to the Minister of the Public Administration and Security.

(Na) All the data collected from overseas should be registered on the Overseas Business and Training Information System in order to prevent the repetition of data requests. The collected data which are difficult for registering on the system can be registered on the system after briefly organizing the list and description of the data.


Da. Post management and etc.

(1) For the systematic administration of the overseas business trips, the Minister shall appoint the person responsible for submitting, registering reports and other administrative tasks to make inspections and improvements internally regarding the present state of the overseas business trips, registration of reports and its utilization.

 



 The regulation on overseas business trips of public officials states that reports should be submitted within 30 days, but there is a case the report was uploaded after one year.

 

  Problems also exist in overseas business trip plans. Obviously it is required to write down the budget on the plan, but it remains blank for many cases. The CFOI randomly selected information of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and Korea Communications Commission written in 2012 and 2011 and the result showed that 30 of 64 for the Ministry of Justice, 31 of 95 for the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and 19 out of 123 for the Korea Communications Commission excluded information related to budget spending on their overseas business trip plans. Making inspections and improvements through the person in charge, stated by the regulation, are seemingly not happening.  

 

  It makes us wonder why the overseas business and training information system was created if the system is poorly managed like this way and the proper information cannot be found. On top of the fact that information is poorly reported, public officials who are in charge seem to have an insufficient understating of the overseas business and training information system. It must be a system made to reveal information transparently regarding business trips and training, but it is only a waste of taxes when it is neglected this way.


 

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