Anyone who has followed the progress of the Taipei Twin Towers project near the Taipei Railway Station could not help but be surprised when the Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS) announced on Friday that the priority developer — a multinational consortium led by Taipei Gateway International Development — was disqualified from the NT$70 billion to NT$80 billion (US$2.39 billion to US$2.73 billion) project because it did not provide a NT$1.89 billion performance bond by the deadline.
The announcement was made just nine hours after city government officials said they had received a fax that showed the consortium had wired US$100 million to a designated bank account for DORTS by midnight on Thursday. However, Taipei Fubon Bank told DORTS officials on Friday morning that the money had not been transferred.
If the multinational group was using false documents to make DORTS think it is financially capable of undertaking the project, it would be shameful, and the authorities must determine if this is the case.
However, it is even more shameful for Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and the Taipei City Government, which have both strongly defended the integrity of the bidding process for more than three months since the consortium won the bid on Oct. 28 last year amid doubts raised by city councilors and the media regarding the consortium’s financial strength, its shareholder structure and the fairness and transparency of the bidding process.
“The winner of the auction was not solely determined by bidding price, the applicants’ financial situations; construction and design skills were also taken into consideration,” DORTS Commissioner Richard Chen (陳椿亮) said in a Dec. 14 press conference amid questions about the city government’s evaluation committee for the project, after 16 of the committee’s 17 members gave the consortium a top rating.
However, Chen said on Friday: “Since the consortium has failed to pay the performance bond by the deadline, we will move on to discuss the contract with the second-priority bidder [BES Engineering Corp] … Whether the consortium had financial difficulty paying the bond is not our concern.”
Is the issue really so simple? Does Chen plan to put the issue behind him so quickly? Why is the city government still covering up for the consortium?
If this is an attempt by the city government to push the project forward on sound financial footing — it has failed to find a winning bidder four times since 2006 — then the public will applaud its actions. However, this appears to be one more incident of mismanagement by Hau’s administration.
Considering how the city government handled the Wenlin Yuan (文林苑) urban renewal project, it seems that the government is still lacking professional judgement in planning major infrastructure projects. It also continues to ignore criticism and advice to fix the problems created by its mismanagement.
“The bidding process has proved to be a farce,” Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City Councilor Wang Shi-chien (王世堅) said on Friday.
“Delaying the deal has squandered public resources, while also causing the city government to lose even more credibility among the public,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Angela Ying (應曉薇) said on Friday.
These remarks should be made directly to Hau and demands should be made that the mayor must shoulder his administrative responsibility and take disciplinary action.
Once the city government has taken disciplinary action, and won back the trust of Taipei citizens, the next step would be for it to revise the bidding process, restructure the evaluation committee, make the bidding more fair and transparent, and promptly negotiate with BES Engineering Corp over the contract. The project needs to progress, but must be executed with care.