Thu, Dec 28, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Officials demoted over passport gaffe

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Bureau of Consular Affairs Director-General Agnes Chen leaves a news conference in Taipei after announcing her resignation to take responsibility for the misuse of a photograph of Washington Dulles International Airport in the design of the new biometric passport.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday demoted Bureau of Consular Affairs Director-General Agnes Chen (陳華玉) and her predecessor, Representative to Canada Kung Chung-chen (龔中誠), over the misuse of a photograph of Washington Dulles International Airport in its new biometric passport design.

Ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) announced the disciplinary actions at a news conference in Taipei yesterday afternoon, after public criticism of the photo’s misuse and the ministry’s initial denial.

“Chen and Kung oversaw the case during their terms as bureau director-general and it was discovered there was oversight on their part,” Lee said, adding that Chen was demoted to ministry counselor and Kung has been recalled to Taiwan.

Other responsible personnel are to face disciplinary action in accordance with the Civil Service Performance Evaluation Act (公務人員考績法), he added.

A netizen on Tuesday said on Facebook that the bureau had mistaken the US airport for Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and had mistakenly used the image on the inner page of new passports, which went into circulation on Monday.

Both the ministry and the bureau denied the accusation at first, only to call an evening news conference on Tuesday to admit the mistake and announce the recall of 285 passports that have already been issued.

Asked whether the demotions were disproportionate given that Kung left the bureau more than one year ago, Bureau Deputy Director-General Christine Tsai (蔡幼文) said Kung, who headed the bureau from 2013 until he was dispatched to Canada in September last year, was the person responsible for signing off on the final design.

“Since Chen assumed leadership, she has been mostly responsible for the passport’s anti-counterfeit design,” Tsai said.

The bureau had planned to remedy the mistake by replacing the pages featuring the wrong airport, but it has turned out to be unfeasible, Tsai said.

“We have to reprint everything rather than replace a few pages,” Tsai said, adding that she could not estimate the replacement cost.

The cost of replacing the first batch of 200,000 passports is expected to be less than the reported NT$90 million (US$3 million), said Chen Yung-hui (陳永輝), general manager of the Central Engraving and Printing Plant, which is responsible for printing the passports.

According to the bureau’s contract with the plant, one passport costs about NT$400, but the bureau has yet to pay for the 200,000 copies, Tsai said.

The plant is to shoulder all expenses related to correcting the mistake, she said.

The bureau on Tuesday said that the designer of the passport, who works for Central Engraving and Printing Plant, had used a photograph of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport’s Terminal 1 prior to its remodeling as the basis for her draft sketch, but later tried to “beautify” the design based on a misidentified photograph of the airport that she sourced online.

Additional reporting by Lu Kuan-cheng

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