Taipei, May 28 (CNA) Cyrus C.Y. Chu, head of the National Science Council (NSC), said Monday his council will review its procedures for disbursing research grants, in response to recent reports of professors allegedly using fake invoices to claim such funds.
The council asked all universities in April to adhere to a standard procedure for claiming research funds, Chu told reporters prior to a legislative report on the effects of and abuses in academic funding.
University accountants will have to present written reports stating whether NSC funds can be claimed for an item, and if there are any doubts, the heads of the institutions will have to make the call, Chu said.
If the heads of institutions are unable to decide, they should consult the funding agency, he added.
If all else fails but the spending is justified, the council should make improvements to the system, Chu said, promising that this would be done in the shortest possible time.
For example, the taxi fare for some research assistants can be discussed since some types of research cannot be interrupted and therefore assistants are required to work late at night.
"If the money is really needed for research purposes, we will have to allow more flexibility in claiming of research funds," said Chu, who was grilled by ruling and opposition party lawmakers over the alleged use of fake invoices.
In an investigation, Taipei prosecutors found that an Academia Sinica researcher and professors at several renowned universities had claimed reimbursements from the science council last year with the use of fake invoices.
Prosecutors charged 22 professors and more than 20 research assistants in March this year with corruption and forgery.
In response, Academia Sinica, National Taiwan University and National Tsing Hua University issued a joint statement Saturday, saying they were "very distressed and very anxious" about the cases.
They said they supported the investigation into illegal practices, but at the same time would like to see an overhaul of the government's disbursement and accounting system for research funding.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Chiang Wei-ning said the professors who were charged should apologize to the public and immediately return the funds that were used for non-academic purposes.
However, he also said he believes most professors use government grants for academic purposes and he hopes the offending researchers will be given a chance to mend their ways.
(By Christie Chen)