Wed, Jan 21, 2009 - Page 1 News List

MOI confirms vouchers may be missing

By Loa Iok-sin, Flora Wang, Shih Hsiu-chuan and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) yesterday reiterated that an unknown number of consumer vouchers may have gone missing because of administrative errors at collection centers, but said the exact number was unclear and it had not decided what action to take.

The ministry’s statement came after the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) reported yesterday that nearly NT$11 million (US$327,000) in vouchers may have been mistakenly distributed.

On Sunday, the government issued vouchers worth NT$3,600 to eligible citizens and residents as part of plans to boost domestic consumption.

“Figures returned from voucher collection centers on Jan. 18 showed that some vouchers had gone missing, but so far, we’re not sure about the exact number,” Deputy Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) told reporters at the ministry’s year-end press conference.

MOI Chief Secretary Weng Wen-te (翁文德) said the ministry was not sure how many collection centers had made mistakes.

“The vouchers are not necessarily missing. So far, our investigations have found that it may be because some people claimed vouchers for others but did not sign for each set they took,” Minister of the Interior Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) said.

The rules for collecting vouchers stipulate that a person must sign for each set of vouchers he or she picks up.

“We’ve randomly selected centers with missing vouchers in [Taipei’s] Neihu District [內湖] and Da-an [大安] and two in Sanchong [三重], Taipei County, and confirmed that these centers have a problem with missing signatures,” Liao said.

According to statistics released by the ministry late on Sunday night, more than 21 million, or 91.29 percent of all eligible nationals and foreign residents, picked up their vouchers from 14,202 collection centers countrywide.

The total value of the vouchers handed out on that day, Chien said, was more than NT$76 billion.

Some reporters pressed officials yesterday for exact numbers.

“This is your year-end press conference — you should have all the numbers ready,” one reporter said.

The ministry also said it had not decided how to deal with missing vouchers.

“We’ve bought insurance and insurance companies will cover losses of up to NT$1,500 for each collection center,” Weng said. “For all 14,202 centers, they will cover up to NT$1.5 million in total.”

When asked who would cover losses above that figure, Liao only said the ministry would “try to negotiate with insurance companies” in that case.

Liao said yesterday that he would not hold any of the 180,000 people who had worked at the distribution centers accountable for any errors.

“I understand that each cent of the money is taxpayers’ money and I believe that none of the center workers did anything wrong on purpose,” Liao told a separate news conference at the ministry later last night. “I will shoulder all the responsibility myself.”

Liao said the ministry had begun a thorough investigation into the issue and promised to make the results public by Friday.

“I assure you the accuracy of the voucher distribution will be higher than 99.993 percent once everything is straightened out,” he said.

He said he would pay any losses not covered by insurance companies out of his own pocket.

“I believe the salary I’ve received since I took office [in May] would be sufficient to pay any losses not covered by insurance,” Liao said. “If my money is not enough to pay for it, I believe that people out there who agree with my ideas will step up to help me.

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