Ministry to probe alleged bid-rigging, amid chaos

FUNNY BUSINESS?:A DPP legislator said bids for the household registration system might have been rigged, as people waited in line for hours for temporary ID cards

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Feb 11, 2014 - Page 1

The Ministry of the Interior yesterday referred allegations of bid-rigging for the problem-plagued new household registration system to its Department of Civil Service Ethics for investigation, Deputy Minister of the Interior Hsiao Chia-chi (蕭家淇) said as the ministry pledged to hold those responsible for the chaos caused by the system accountable.

Hsiao made the move one day after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said that the bids for the development of the system and the procurement of the necessary equipment might have been rigged, as most of them adopted the “limited tendering” method and attracted only one bidder.

The limited tendering method refers to a procedure where two or more suppliers are invited to compete or only one supplier is invited for tendering, without prior public notice.

It is generally used either because only a few companies are qualified to provide the service or products required, or to reduce the length of the process.

Citing the ministry’s report on the development of the registration system to the then-Cabinet’s Research, Development and Evaluation Commission, Chen said the new system cost the government a total of NT$2.17 billion (US$72 million), rather than just NT$600 million, as the ministry claimed.

“Furthermore, most of the questionable public bids concerning the system were carried out during Premier Jiang Yi-huah’s (江宜樺) tenure as the head of the ministry [from September 2009 to February 2012],” Chen said.

Playing down Chen’s allegations, Hsiao said the development of the system was a years-long plan that had been supervised by four different interior ministers.

“The government operates continuously and there is no way to measure the success of a plan by the amount of effort exerted into it by each minister… Doing the job right is all that matters to every serving government official,” Hsiao said.

Hsiao made the remarks when visiting Taipei City’s Daan District (大安) Household Registration Office yesterday morning to examine the operation of the new system following its disappointing public debut on Wednesday last week.

The system drew fire almost immediately after it was put into operation, as people had to wait in line for hours, rather than the usual 30 minutes or less, to obtain a national identification card or register their marriage or divorce.

The ministry had promised to restore the system to normal operations by yesterday, but it failed to do so after the system malfunctioned again in scores of household registration offices in Taipei, Greater Kaohsiung and Changhua County, which prevented them from issuing identity cards.

The offices had to issue “temporary identification cards” — an A4-sized page printed with the person’s name, address and ID number — as a substitute.

As of 5pm yesterday, a total of 77 temporary identity cards had been issued.

It is the first time the government has issued such proof of identity due to technical problems since the implementation of the first computerized household registration system in 1997.

The Taipei City Government’s Department of Civil Affairs said that as the temporary ID cards were only valid for two or three days, it was unlikely they would be used for illegal purposes.