Thu, Nov 02, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Watchdog group sues MOTC chiefs over toll project

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Consumers' Foundation (消基會) yesterday visited the Taipei District Prosecutor's Office to sue Minister of Transportation and Communications Tsai Duei (蔡堆) and another official for dereliction of duty in their dealings with the electronic toll collection (ETC) controversy.

This was the first time the non-profit organization had taken legal action against government officials since it was established in 1980.

"Tsai and Yang Hsi-an (楊錫安), director-general of the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau, failed to fulfill their duties. Consumers' rights and interests have been damaged," said Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏), who took over the foundation's chairmanship last week.

The foundation had claimed in late September it would file a lawsuit against the transportation authorities if they did not respond to the group's call to immediately terminate the ETC system's operations and return the exclusive ETC toll lanes to general traffic.

In early August, the Administrative Supreme Court voided a partnership between the transportation ministry and the privately owned Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (遠通電收) over the build-operate-transfer project, citing an unfair bidding process.

However, the government has disregarded the ruling and continued to allow Far Eastern Electronic to run the system, which led many people to suspect that there might be some kind of collusion involved, Cheng said.

Far Eastern Electronic is reportedly demanding service fees three times the current level during the interim period before a second round of bidding is conducted.

Lang Ya-ling (郎亞玲), spokeswoman for Far Eastern Electronic, said the firm had no comment on the foundation's actions.

She refused to provide details of any financial losses incurred. The Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau pays the firm NT$180 million (US$5.4 million) per month to operate the ETC system, but the minimum monthly expenditure runs to NT$450 million, Lang said.

Far Eastern Electronic, which started providing the ETC service in February, forecast in late March it might see losses of NT$2.7 billion by the end of the year.

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