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Wed, Nov 21, 2001 - Page 2 News List

City spending irks official

TRAVEL EXPENSES A DPP Taipei city councilor produced documentation yesterday to back his claim that the city's mayor and other officials are wasting taxpayers' money

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

As the public tightens its collective belt during the economic downturn, Taipei City Government officials are wasting taxpayers' money on expensive overseas trips and the costly maintance of official vehicles, a city councilor charged yesterday.

The city government denied the allegations.

Producing documents to support his case at the city council yesterday morning, DPP city councilor Wang Po-yu (王博昱) said that many municipal officials were wasting taxpayers' money on expensive official trips abroad.

Wang used City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as an example. "He has taken ... 14 official overseas trips since he took office about three years ago," Wang said.

The travel costs total about NT$11 million, or NT$850,000 per trip, he said, adding that Ma's total travel expenditure represented about four-and-a-half times market prices.

"It's outrageous that the city government uses taxpayers' money as if it is its own," he said.

Wang claimed other high-ranking municipal officials also spend money lavishly on trips include Deputy Mayor Ou Chin-der (歐晉德), who has spent NT$1.2 million over the past three years; Deputy Mayor Pai Hsiu-hsiung (白秀雄), who has spent more than NT$536,000; and Secretary-General Chen Yu-chang (陳裕璋), whose expenditures exceeded NT$732,000.

All of their traveling expenses represent between two and four times market prices, Wang said.

He said that the director of the department of information was the most lavish municipal official in terms of travel expenses, spending over NT$912,000. He was followed by the director of Bureau of Cultural Affairs with NT$634,000 and the director of Bureau of Health's NT$502,000.

As for municipal officials' expenditure on maintaining their official vehicles, Wang said, Ma has spent a total of NT$299,000 to date, or NT$220,000 in excess of the legal limit.

Ou has spent about NT$318,000 (NT$201,000 more than the legal limit). Pai has spent a total of NT$282,000 (NT$165,000 above the limit), and Chen has spent NT$251,000 (NT$153,000 over the legal limit).

Other municipal officials who spend too much on official vehicles include the director of the environmental protection bureau, the director of the department of information and the director of the health bureau.

Mayor Ma, however, dismissed Wang's allegations.

"He's definitely picking an inappropriate issue because I'm extremely frugal in terms of taking official overseas trips," Ma said.

"It's unfair to make the comparison between my travel expenses and those of ordinary people because complicated schedules cost more and are not eligible for group discounts," Ma said. "It would make more sense to make the comparison between my expenses and those of my predecessor, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁)."

According to Ma, three years into his stint as city mayor Chen had made a total of 13 official foreign trips, spending a total of NT$17 million, or averaging more than NT$1 million a trip.

"Besides, to keep my travel expenses down, I haven't stayed in luxury hotel suites nor have I purchased any first-class airplane tickets since August last year," Ma said. "I don't take any family members on official overseas trips and the trips are strictly business -- not tourist-oriented."

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