Wed, Jul 30, 2003 - Page 2 News List

City councilors' Hawaiian vacation raises eyebrows

ALOHA CONTROVERSY Council members were quick to react after Mayor Ma Ying-jeou expressed concern about the cost of the trip, given the city's finances

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A plan by more than half the Taipei City Council to holiday in Hawaii triggered controversy yesterday as Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) called on the councilors to take the city's straitened finances into account -- given that the trip will cost NT$4 million.

Ma said the councilors' travel plan was reasonable as long as a budget for the trip was passed according to the legislative procedure.

"However, I hope that the city council could take the city's finances into consideration, as it is in straitened circumstances," Ma said.

The Taipei City Council has budgeted NT$4 million for a six-day trip to Hawaii next month to "promote fellowship."

Thirty-nine of the 52-member council have signed up for the trip, along with nearly 100 family members.

Council Secretary-General Lin Chia-chi (林家祺) said a yearly group trip for city councilors is a council tradition, with a budget of around NT$2 million that is legitimately approved.

Lin emphasized that this year's travel budget passed through legislative procedure.

"We are simply conducting this [yearly trip] according to the regulations," Lin Chia-chi said.

KMT City Councilor Lin I-hua (林奕華), who will not be going to Hawaii, said the budget for this year's trip was too high.

"I have never taken part in any of the [yearly] trips by the city council," she said.

"I think the most controversial part of this year's trip is that the council appropriated money -- NT$1 million each -- from two other budgets, [one] for coun-cilors' education and [one for] physical activities," Lin I-hua said.

"Although the yearly trips are an activity that has worked for la ong time, it is high time to review whether it is proper to spend so much money for councilors' activities," Lin I-hua said. "I thought the [council's] travel expenses would be much lower after the SARS epidemic."

DPP City Councilor Wang Shih-chien (王世堅) said Ma's reaction was an attempt to make the city council look bad.

"Mayor Ma did not express such an opinion when the budget was passed. His comment is a little late," Wang Shih-chien said.

"I think the budget for `survey' travel [visiting other countries to see how city councils work there] is necessary, but the one for vacation travel needs to be discussed further," he said.

Wang Shih-chien will not participate in the Hawaii trip.

PFP City Councilor Wang Yu-cheng (王育誠) said he is against spending money on unnecessary expenses that have nothing to do with municipal projects.

"I will strive to boycott the [travel] budget in the next session," Wang Yu-cheng said.

"It is a super-luxury vacation paid for with the hard-earned money of taxpayers," he said.

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