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Tue, May 23, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Councilor questions issue of liability

COMPENSATION A Taipei city councilor claims that municipal officials are getting away with mistakes for which they should be held personally responsible

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Negligent officials have made mistakes without being held accountable or being reprimanded by the city government, a city councilor said yesterday.

New Party City Councilor Lee Ching-yuan (李慶元) said at a conference yesterday that in the past five years the Taipei City Government has handled 708 national compensation cases, but in only five of the cases were the officials concerned asked to pay for the mistakes they had made.

Only seven municipal officials, or 4.5 percent, were disciplined.

"The percentage is obviously too low," he said.

According to Lee, over the past five years -- from January 1995 to April 2000 -- the city government received a total of 708 national compensation claims, of which only 111 were eligible. Of the 111 cases, only 100 were granted compensation, totaling NT$33,570,257.

However, the responsible municipal officials in only five of the 100 cases were asked to pay for their mistakes, a sum of NT$102,304, while the remaining sum of NT$33,467,953 was paid out of city coffers, Lee said.

Lee's study also showed that the city's public works bureau (工務局) accounted for the most cases of national compensation, a total of 335, or 49 percent, followed by the transportation bureau's (交通局) 70, or 9.8 percent.

According to Lee, the problem has been long standing.

"When Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁)was the mayor, the city government had to tackle 122 national compensation claims every year. Now Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has to take up an average of 145 cases a year," he said.

"It just doesn't make much sense as taxpayers have to spend their money to heal the wounds inflicted by others."

As for the seven city officials that were disciplined, Lee said, the highest-ranking officer was the deputy director of the Environmental Protection Bureau Hung Cheng-chung (洪正中), who received one reprimand for failing to properly supervise the illegal dumping of waste soil in Neihu, which caused the death of a student.

Taipei City Government compensation claims

Bureau of Public Works Bureau of Transportation Accounts for 49 percent of the city's national compensation claims over the past five years.

Individuals are eligible for national compensation if they suffer physical or property losses because:

* No warning signs have been erected to indicate a road is under repair.

* Individual homes or garages are flooded during the typhoon seasons due to negligence on the part of regional water pumping stations.

*Tree-trimming causes damage to individual cars and uneven sidewalks or stairs cause injury to pedestrians.

. Accounts for 9.8 percent of the city's national compensation claims over the past five years.

Individuals are eligible for national compensation if they suffer physical or property losses because of :

* Damage to individual cars due to careless towing.

* Car theft at public parking lots, or damage in flooded public parking lots.

* Physical damage as a result of loose traffic light control wires.

In this case, the city government granted compensation worth NT$2.23 million.

The city also paid NT$2.18 million to the family of a pedestrian who was killed by a speeding police car.

C. H. Chen (陳清秀), director of the city's Rules and Regulations Commission (法規委 員會), said city officials were not asked to pay for their mistakes and were not disciplined for a reason.

According to the National Compensation Law (國家賠償法), Chen said, the government is liable for national compensation even though no government officials are at fault. Also, officials are liable to pay for their mistakes only when they are "seriously" or "deliberately" at fault.

"The logic is quite simple here," he said. "While the nation's interest is shared by the citizens, they have to assume the risks as well. It doesn't make much sense to ask individual officials to shoulder all the risks by themselves," he said.

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