Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors yesterday accused former Taipei City Secretariat director Yang Hsi-an (楊錫安) of collaborating with the contractor of the MRT Wenshan-Neihu Line to get a NT$1.5 billion (US$48 million) price adjustment, urging prosecutors to look into Yang’s relations with the contractor.
Yang was demoted on Wednesday after prosecutors listed him as a defendant in the Xinsheng Overpass reconstruction scandal. Prosecutors said he had been exchanging e-mails with the contractor, Kung Sing Engineering Corp, that discussed the bidding price of the project.
The company has handled the construction or engineering design of 100 municipal projects, including the MRT line, since Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) took office in December 2006.
Criticizing Yang’s close relations with the contractor, DPP Taipei City Councilor Lee Chien-chang (李建昌) alleged that Yang had ignored the contract, which banned any adjustment of the budget for the line, and urged the city government to increase the budget for the line’s construction in 2007 because of soaring raw material prices.
The company’s requests to make price adjustments for raw material costs in 2005 and 2006 had been rejected by the administration of then-Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), according to city government documents.
However, while presiding over several municipal meetings in 2007, Yang said the city’s Department of Rapid Transit Systems should discuss the issue with the company and finalize a plan on the sum of the price adjustment.
Hau approved the proposal to give the company an extra NT$1.5 billion by the end of that year.
“Yang was obviously playing a major role in pushing for the city government to violate the contract and give extra money to the company. This is another example of his collaboration with the company so that it would benefit from construction projects,” Lee said.
DPP Taipei City Councilor Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華) joined Lee and also challenged Yang’s role in the price adjustment plan, urging prosecutors to start investigating the case.
“Hau should also explain to Taipei residents whether he agreed to pay the money in order to speed up the line’s construction. The NT$1.5 billion is not Hau’s money, it’s taxpayers’ money,” Hsu said.
Yang yesterday dismissed the allegations, saying the price adjustment plan was approved by the Executive Yuan’s Public Construction Commission and adding that other government departments had also raised budgets for construction projects because of increases in the costs of raw materials.
“I only gave advice, I didn’t approve the project ... The councilors should not use [the case] as an election ploy,” Yang said.
Meanwhile, Hau said his DPP rival in next month’s election, Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), was using the Xinsheng Overpass reconstruction project scandal to make unnecessary attacks on him for election purposes. He urged Su to respect the judicial system.
Su said Hau’s election team was attempting to cover up the truth and vowed to “recover the truth and let Taipei residents know what really happened” if elected.
The KMT caucus accused prosecutors of attempting to sabotage Hau’s election bid by listing Yang as a defendant.
KMT Deputy Secretary-General Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) said the caucus believed in Hau’s integrity because it was the mayor that had referred the case to prosecutors.
Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾), another KMT deputy secretary-general, urged Hau to clearly account for the overpass procurement process to prevent the controversy from escalating.
Additional reporting by Flora Wang
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