Tue, Aug 08, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Embattled minister tenders resignation

SIGH OF RELIEF?Kuo Yai-chi quit the controversy-laden MOTC, citing differences with her superiors, although Premier Su said he hoped to convince her to stay on

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Transportation and Communications Kuo Yao-chi announces her resignation at a press conference in Taipei yesterday. She cited policy differences with the premier and other superiors as her reason for stepping down.

PHOTO: HSU MIN-JUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Minister of Transportation and Communications Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪) unexpectedly resigned yesterday after serving in her post for only 195 days.

"A minister should be held accountable for policy and should be willing to bear any humiliation and criticism from the public -- this is beyond question," Kuo said. "However, when she realizes that it is difficult to promote her own agenda within the administration and her ideas are in conflict with those of her superiors, it is time to decide whether to stay or to leave."

"The best test of character is when one seeks nothing," she added. "And one's burden is lightest when one is not holding any position."

Kuo said she had already tendered her resignation to Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and would be on leave starting today. She left immediately after the announcement, and refused to answer any questions from the press.

In response, Su said yesterday that Kuo was not to blame for the ETC debacle, and that he would do everything he could to convince her to stay.

Kuo's position would be temporarily filled by Vice Minister of Transportation and Communications Tsai Duei (蔡堆).

Tsai said that Kuo informed her three vice ministers and secretary- general about her decision to resign at a luncheon yesterday, adding that Kuo did not give reasons for her sudden decision to leave.

Tsai, however, said that the decision might be related to controversies surrounding the highway electronic toll collection (ETC) system.

Tsai said he also had turned in his resignation to Kuo, but added that he hoped the Cabinet would be able to deal with the matter in a satisfactory manner and that Kuo would change her mind about resigning.

"The minister has been committed to every task since she assumed the position -- from the ETC system to the launch of the Chiang Wei-shui Freeway and [preparing for] the official opening of the High Speed Railway in October," he said.

Independent Legislator Yang Chung-tse (楊宗哲) issued a statement on behalf of the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU), saying that it was inappropriate for Kuo to resign now

"The contracts and all the decisions relating to the ETC were determined and approved by prior ministers," he said, "The current minister should do everything she can to clean up the mess."

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau yesterday announced possible solutions to the problems besetting the ETC system.

The bureau's secretary-general, Hsieh Shien-tsung (謝憲宗), said that the Supreme Administrative Court had ruled that the second round of the evaluation process was flawed and failed to observe the principle of "equality" and "honoring public interest."

Hsieh said that the bureau would attempt to rectify the situation by conducting another review process. However, it would first have to find members who used to serve on the review board, he said.

According to Hsieh, only one member is willing to return to the board; the others have declined the invitation.

Hsieh added that the bureau was entitled to select new members for the review board based on the Government Procurement Act (政府採購法).

If the review board could be successfully reconvened, all three contractors bidding for the project -- Acer, Taiwan Yu-Tung and Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection -- would be re-evaluated once again. Far Eastern might win by qualification but the lawsuits filed against the company could disqualify its role in the project once again.

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