Fri, Sep 24, 2010 - Page 1 News List

City accused of overpaying for expo billboards

PRICE DIFFERENTIALThree city councilors said that aside from overpriced promo materials, the Taipei City Government paid for cranes that were not used

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors yesterday intensified their attacks on the city government over its management of the Taipei International Flora Exposition, accusing it of paying more than 30 times the market price for promotional canvases and billboards.

Although the market price for canvases and billboards is between NT$9 and NT$22 per square meter, the Department of New Construction paid contractors as much as NT$686 per square meter to erect billboards promoting the event nationwide, said DPP Taipei City councilors Lee Ching-feng (李慶鋒) and Chien Yu-yen (簡余晏), and Independent Taipei City Councilor Chen Chien-ming (陳建銘).

“The overpriced canvases and billboards are yet another example of the municipal team’s failure to maintain a reasonable budget for the event. The city government needs to provide a clear explanation as to why all the material costs are higher than market prices,” Chien said at the Taipei City Council.

Information provided by the department showed the city government spent more than NT$1.3 million (US$42,000) to erect billboards at 18 locations nationwide.

Although the budget for the billboard project included crane fees, an investigation found that at six locations — including the Fongshan City Farmers’ Association in Kaohsiung — cranes were not used to lift the billboards into place, Lee said.

“The city government says some of material prices included design or construction fees, but our findings show that this was not true. The municipal team should provide a better explanation,” he said.

The DPP city councilors first unearthed problems with material prices for the expo last month, when they accused the city government of paying more than 30 times the market price for flowers and plants.

The scandal has snowballed into a major crisis for Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and his team, who have borne the brunt of the criticism for their slow response to the criticism.

Hau has since said that city officials had committed “administrative mistakes” in handling the purchase plans, and he invited academics and construction experts to help supervise the expo organization.

However, the DPP councilors continued to accuse Hau’s team of paying exorbitant prices for purchases ranging from exhibition installations to tubing.

Wang Cheng-hsiao (王振霄), chief secretary of the city’s Department of Economic Development, said the prices for the billboards and canvases included one-year maintenance fees, but promised to check the budget to see if there were discrepancies.

Chen said the city councilors would submit the price differentials to the Taipei District Court for investigation.

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