Scott Sommers’ Taiwan Blog

The Examination Yuan under the KMT

Posted in Uncategorized by Scott Sommers on February 7, 2009

The Examination Yuan (考試院) is a unique aspect of government in the Republic of China. It’s legal status is on the same level as the Legislative Yuan (立法院) which acts as the legislature and the Executive Yuan (行政院) which acts as the cabinet. You can read the English description of their legal responsibilities here, but basically their job is to supervise the selection and performance of the civil service. The EY is composed of the Ministry of Examination, the Ministry of Civil Service, the Civil Service Protection and Training Commission (公務人員保障暨培訓委員會), and the Supervisory Board of the Public Service Pension Fund (公務人員退休撫卹基金監理委員會)

See here for the organization chart of the Examination Yuan.

I find this extremely interesting. There is an entire ministry that looks after the construction of civil service examinations. One popular interpretation of this is that examination is a tradition construct of Chinese culture. As much as this true, the Ministry of Examinations was only founded in 1948 by the KMT government in Taiwan. While examination may be a cultural construct of the Chinese, examination in Taiwan was constructed by the KMT.

Examination Yuan commissioners and a president are nominated by the office of the President of the ROC. President Ma Ying Jeou (馬英九) has appointed Dr. John Kuan (關中) as EY president and replaced a number of the commissioners of the yuan. The Examination Yuan has been busy at work under the Ma Administration, and I’d like to tell you about some of things they have been addressing.

Incompetent Civil Servants

The Ministry of Civil Service has announced plans to “weed out incompetent civil servants” (also see here). The former KMT party official who is now serving as Minister of Civil Service, Mr. Chang Che-shen (張哲琛), has stated that

Under existing regulations, it is almost impossible to fire a civil servant solely on grounds of incompetence or being unfit. Even if such a government employee is fired, he or she still has many channels for appeal or redress.

While all this sounds great, I can’t help wondering if this is similar to the removal of university faculty that is now being tolerated.

Pregnancy and Evaluation of Female Civil Servants

Another interesting reform that’s being discussed is changes in the current evaluation of civil servants that penalizes women for becoming pregnant. This policy change is being handled along with the Central Personnel Administration (行政院人事行政局) under Minister Dr. Ching-Hsiou Chen (陳清秀). I am a little surprised this situation still exists. One of the major health issues in Taiwan is the declining birth rate. For years, health officials have been discussing this as though it is a moral problem. As far back as 2002, Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) was quoted as saying,

Most of the younger generation just don’t want to have babies. We will try to offer certain incentives to encourage the younger generation to have babies

And while women who worked in his ministry (in fact in his office) were penalized for having babies, he was suggesting a $12 billion subsidy for families that would make almost no difference to an individual family.

So I am very happy to see a government finally willing to discuss the provision of equal work opportunities for women employed in government.

A Scandal in the Control Yuan?

There have also been problems. Members of the Control Yuan (監察院) have been accused of improperly taking compensation for the supervision of examinations (also see here). Instantly a flag goes up and residents of Taiwan start thinking this is just another case of corrupt officials. But wait, this really has nothing to do with corruption and, in fact, seems to be one of those jurisdictional problems that continues to plague government here. Apparently, the members in question had reported to the Examination Yuan they were not eligible for the inappropriate payments but the Examination Yuan insisted on paying them anyway. The amounts in question are not very large (NT$30-35,000). The real problem is not whether the KMT will ‘clean up’ these immoral officials, but whether they’re willing to disregard the situation and fix the real issue of who has jurisdiction over the payment.

I would like to see the Examination Yuan dissolved. I believe it is remnant of pre-modern government. It’s unique because it doesn’t work very well. Taiwan can continue to try hammering it into a modern form, but it will never quite fit. On the other hand, it is an historical institution of KMT government developed to incorporate aspects of traditional society into contemporary control. As a result, it’s doubtful we’ll be seeing a Ma Ying-Jeou Administration doing much to effect the authority of the Examination Yuan.

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