Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday defended his appointment of former Taipei City Secretariat director Yang Hsi-an (楊錫安) as deputy mayor despite a decision by prosecutors to re-open an investigation on his alleged involvement in the Xinsheng Overpass construction scandal.
Yang, 61, was removed from his secretariat post after he was listed as a defendant last year over the scandal. Hau, who appointed Yang on Thursday to be deputy mayor, maintains that the latter is innocent, because prosecutors did not indict him when they concluded their investigation.
Taipei prosecutors have filed charges against three former Taipei City officials: Huang Hsi-hsun (黃錫薰), the former director of the New Construction Department; Chen Chih-sheng (陳智盛), former section chief of the department’s Public Works Bureau; and former chief engineer at the department, Chang Li-yen (章立言).
The charges were laid over -alleged abuse of power by the officials when handling the bidding process for the overpass project in April 2008 to please their supervisors and increase their chances of getting a promotion.
However, Yang was not indicted and prosecutors said they had insufficient evidence to prove he had conspired with the construction companies during bidding. Nevertheless, they recommended that the city government discipline him for inappropriate actions during the bidding process.
Last month, the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office said the investigation was not comprehensive and sent the case back to Taipei Prosecutors’ Office for a follow-up probe.
Taiwan High Court’s Prosecutors’ Office spokesperson Lin Bang-liang (林邦樑) said the bureau had ordered Taipei district prosecutors to re-open the investigation into Yang’s role in the scandal.
Lin said prosecutors doubted whether the three mid-level city officials had the authority to make decisions by themselves over a project that had a budget of more than NT$10 billion (US$346 million), while senior officials were thought to have known nothing about the irregularities.
The city government conducted public tenders in April 2008 for the overpass project, but because several construction firms offered bids above the floor price, the tender failed five times.
Before the sixth round was held, Yang allegedly contacted Chen Huang-ming (陳煌銘), an executive at Kung Sing Engineering Corp (工信工程公司), by e-mail, and Kung Sing later won the bid, Lin said.
In the e-mail, prosecutors found that Chen mentioned that the price of construction materials was rising globally and suggested that the city government offer a “more reasonable” floor price for the bid, Lin said.
Lin said prosecutors found that the city government’s floor price rose from NT$1.62 billion in the first round of bidding to NT$1.95 billion in the sixth round, with Kung Sing offering a price close to NT$1.95 billion.
Only Kung Sing offered a price that was higher than the floor price in the fifth round, prosecutors said. All the other companies offered prices that were lower than those proposed in the fifth round.
They said that to facilitate the bidding process for the overpass project — after five failures — and to ensure the project was completed before the opening of the Taipei International Flora Expo in November last year, the three officials were suspected of inflating the budget for the project, causing the city government to lose NT$337 million.