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Thu, May 24, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Profits said to be at the root of 921 construction spat

FOLLOW THE MONEYThe fight over a Taichung school's reconstruction is due to the intense desire of local interests to retain all the profits from the NT$860 million project, lawmakers said yesterday

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

A dispute between the Ministry of Education and school representatives from a school reconstruction project in Taiwan's 921 earthquake zone was apparently triggered when local interest groups began to worry that they would miss out on the project's lucrative profits, lawmakers said yesterday.

"The root of the conflict between the two parties is obvious: local interests groups [in the Taichung area] are upset that they may lose the bidding for an upcoming lucrative deal," said DPP lawmaker Wang Shih-hsun (王世勛), referring to the campus reconstruction project of Tungshi Vocational High School (東勢高工) in Taichung County.

Local ties

The interests groups, according to Wang, are Lee Ping-feng

(李炳豐), director of the school's parent's association, and KMT lawmaker Yang Wen-hsin (楊文欣), a Taichung County representative.

Lee, accompanied by Yang, filed complaints on Tuesday with the legislature and the Control Yuan, the country's supreme watchdog body.

They alleged that Vice Minister of Education Fan Sun-lu (范巽綠) and her husband Chang Fu-chung (張富忠) attempted to collect profits out of the school reconstruction project by intervening in the formation of a committee which was to select architects and construction companies favored by the ministry.

According to Wang, a lawmaker also from Taichung, Lee and Yang come from the same family and have deep connections with construction firms in the region, so "it is natural that they are protesting against the education ministry because it may spoil their original plan -- to win the bid for the school's reconstruction."

Yang is the vice president of the Changyi Group (長億集團), a renowned construction company, and Lee is his uncle.

Wang said it was commonly known that they took charge of many construction projects in the Taichung area.

"For an immense project valued at NT$860 million, the education ministry is only doing their job to ensure everything follows legal procedure," Wang said, adding that he hoped judicial departments would take immediate action to uncover the truth.

`Ungrounded accusations'

Furious over what he termed "the ungrounded allegations," Chang Fu-chung yesterday told the Taipei Times that what Fan had done at the ministry was regarded as a stumbling block by those accustomed to profiting from public construction projects.

"We've expected slander from the locals when [Fan] strived to weed out the longstanding unlawful conduct, but we that hope whoever has directed these accusations against us can present their evidence," Chang said.

"If I am found to have interfered with the internal affairs of the education ministry, Fan will immediately resign," he added.

Responding to the criticism, Yang said the reason that Fan and other lawmakers have so enthusiastically linked him with the Changyi Group at this sensitive time was to blur the focus of the issue.

Yang said his group was never engaged in any dealings with the public sector and that the only reason he was involved in the dispute was because the school is situated in his constituency.

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