Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) yesterday responded to a report critical of his planned use of public funds to treat reporters to an expensive trip to Taichung and Nantou.
"I must say, the story is not certainly accurate. To be precise, parts of the story are not true," Chen said. "It's merely a proposal at this point, it is not a done deal," he said.
Chen held a press conference yesterday morning in response to a front page story on a Chinese-language newspaper. In the story, Chen was criticized for his plan to "waste public funds on reporters with a free trip and hotel rooms" in the luxury Lalu Hotel (涵碧樓).
The dispute came from the ministry's plan to invite and lead a group of Judicial Reporters Association members on a tour of Taichung Prison and Nantou Detention House facilities on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30. Ministry officials are planning to arrange lodging at the Lalu Hotel by Sun Moon Lake.
The latest information of the Lalu Hotel showed that the cheapest room with a king size bed costs NT$13,800 a night.
According to Chen, the ministry has an annual NT$300,000 budget for taking judicial reporters to visit its prison facilities, prosecutors offices and detention facilities nation-wide. Usually, a trip of this nature lasts three days and two nights.
"This year, we discussed the trip with the Judicial Reporters Association's president and vice president. They both suggested the trip be shortened to two days so their reporters could return to work as soon as possible. However, they suggested we to stay at a better hotel if that is the case," Chen said.
According to Chen, the Lalu Hotel is only one of the suggested hotels in the proposal.
"Our budget is NT$6,000 per person for the entire trip. That is the bottom line. I think this should not be called a waste of money," the minister said.
"However, we always negotiate for the best price available. This is how we handle this," he added.
Currently, the Judicial Reporters Association has 72 members from local newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations.
Chen also said that the proposal is still "wishful thinking" because a final deal is not been decided.
"The Lalu hotel has not called us back so we do not know whether they will give us discounts to meet our bottom line. So it is just a proposal," he said.
"But, I must emphasize again, visiting our local prison facilities to get a better picture of what our local offices are doing will be the focus for the trip," Chen said.