Sunday, November 11, 2007

Quiz Custard Diet Ipso Facto?

Beardsley on Juvenal- an urgent need for custodes

What is it with these official guardians of the public purse?

We all know about the problems our own Sir John Bourn had with his lavish expenses while heading the National Audit Office (eg see here). But he's far from alone.

In South Korea they've had a problem at the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption, which as its name suggests, was established specifically to monitor corruption among public servants. According to the Chosun Ilbo:

"Last November, three executives at the Commission spent W16.09 million (about $17,000) to go on a 10-day European trip on the pretext of visiting audit and inspection agencies there. When lawmakers looked at their travel report, they had spent only three days visiting such agencies and only half a day each at that."

Sounds pretty familiar (wonder if Sir John took them to Wiltons?).

But you can certainly see why Koreans need their Corruption Commission:

"One executive at the Korea Labor Welfare Corporation paid $1300 on a golf game during a weekday in September using his corporate credit card. Another employee used his corporate card to pay for a $800 bill at a bar. Workers in one municipal government cashed out $1300 using their corporate card by faking a legitimate purchase and shared the money among themselves... etc etc

Since the start of the Roh Moo-hyun administration [2003], there has been a 37.1 percent rise in the number of ministers and vice ministers, a 27.2 percent increase in the number of level 1 to 3 public servants, a 7.2 percent rise in the number of administrative public servants, a 14.3 percent rise in the number of ministerial committees, a 330 percent rise in the budget allotted to committees serving the president or prime minister , a 12.1 percent rise in the number of employees at public institutions, while the payroll expenditure for public servants has risen 42.7 percent. All we can say is, “Help!”

And all we can say is that it sounds just like New Labour.

PS That custard business has always been right on the money, but until I read this Wiki article, I'd imagined Juvenal's quis custodiet ipsos custodes? was a technical critique of Roman constitutional arrangements. Apparently it wasn't- Mr J was actually puzzling over how he could stop his wife putting it about: "I hear always the admonishment of my friends:"Bolt her in, constrain her!" But who will watch the watchmen? The wife plans ahead and begins with them!"

These days, "lock up your wife" Mr J is viewed as elitist, sexist and xenophobic (which is precisely why the Major likes him so much). But compared to the Muslim Council of Britain, he's a fully paid-up memeber of Pol's Progressive Consensus. Take this morning's Telegraph interview with the MCB's head, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari. Asked "is stoning ever justified?", Bari replies "It depends what sort of stoning and what circumstances. When our prophet talked about stoning for adultery he said there should be four [witnesses] - in realistic terms that's impossible." Right. I reckon Mrs Juvenal was much better off with Mr J's custodes. 2,000 years ago.

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