The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday called on the judiciary to step up its investigation into President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and vice president-elect Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) involvement in allegations of misuse of NT$215 million (US$7.3 milion) of public funds to stage the musical Dreamers (夢想家) last year.
“We urge prosecutors, as well as the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division [SID], to investigate possible misconduct by Ma and Wu,” DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) told a press conference.
The weekly Chinese--language Next Magazine yesterday quoted former Council of Cultural Affairs minister Emile Sheng’s (盛治仁) testimony at the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office on April 17 as saying that Wu, who was premier at the time, was the decisionmaker behind the musical, which was staged for the Republic of China’s (ROC) centenary celebrations last year.
Sheng was quoted as saying that in late January or early February, Wu ordered that the performance be moved from Greater Kaohsiung to Greater Taichung and that it be held outdoors.
Wu had the event moved to Taichung because Kaohsiung is governed by the DPP and he figured that central Taiwan would be a key battleground during the presidential election earlier this year, Sheng said.
Sheng added that Ma was briefed on details of the project in May that year, the magazine said. The final bid was awarded in December 2010.
Sheng resigned on Nov. 18 last year, about a month after the musical came under heavy criticism and talks of a possible scandal snowballed.
Ma and Wu both denied knowing anything about the musical after the controversy broke out.
The DPP filed a lawsuit against Ma and Wu, accusing the two of corruption by favoring Performance Workshop Theatre founder Stan Lai (賴聲川) when organizing centenary celebration events.
The two-night presentation of the musical was not only expensive, but was also divided into 13 bids, of which six were restricted bids totaling NT$180 million, to evade the Public Procurement Act (政府採購法), the DPP suit said, adding that most of the winning bidders were Lai’s associates.
Prosecutors have not questioned Wu about the case since the DPP brought the charge six months ago.
If what Sheng said in the report proved to be true, that would mean Ma and Wu had both lied to the public about the incident, which was obvious bid rigging, DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said.
It would be up to the judiciary to find the truth, Chen added, because DPP lawmakers’ attempts to obtain documents from the Council of Cultural Affairs related to the musical had been blocked by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
It was suspicious that the prices of six of the 13 bids were the same as the base prices, while another only came in with a NT$300 difference, DPP Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said.
DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said Sheng’s revelation showed that he “did not want to be the ‘scapegoat’ in the controversy and be responsible for something beyond his authority.”