Thu, Sep 08, 2005 - Page 3 News List

PFP threatens to freeze Kaohsiung's MRT budget

SUSPICIONS The PFP legislative caucus demanded the truth behind last month's labor riot, and that the premier explain how the project's contracts have been allocated

BY KO SHU-LING  /  STAFF REPORTER

The People First Party (PFP) legislative caucus yesterday vowed to freeze the transportation ministry's budget for Kaohsiung City's mass rapid transit (MRT) system until the "truth" behind last month's labor riot in the city has been uncovered.

The PFP caucus also asked Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) to shed some light on how the NT$181.3 billion construction project is contracted out. The build-operate-transfer (BOT) project was contracted out in 2001 when Hsieh was the mayor of Kaohsiung.

Corruption

The PFP's requests came after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus on Monday threatened to establish a legislative commission of inquiry and a truth-finding task force, which would report to the KMT caucus, to expose claims of corruption.

The caucus also requested that Hsieh resign to avoid a conflict of interest in a probe into the riot by foreign laborers.

PFP Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said yesterday it is ridiculous that, while Kaohsiung City's mass rapid transit system was supposed to be constructed under the BOT model, government agencies have invested more than NT$150 billion in the project, representing about 83 percent of the project's total budget.

He added that the project nonetheless still manages to circumvent the supervision of the legislature.

According to Chang, who is also the director of the party's Policy Center, the central government contributes NT$110 billion, or 79 percent of the total amount, while the Kaohsiung city and county governments will invest NT$40 billion. The Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corporation (KRTC), will inject NT$30.49 billion, about NT$20 billion of which comes from a bank loan, while the remaining NT$10 billion will be contributed by seven private companies, Chang said.

With such a modest investment, Chang said, the KRTC will get to subcontract out the project and operate the system for 30 years after its completion.

"We'd like to know how the KRTC won the contract, how it is subcontracting work and why the Kaohsiung City Government has failed to appoint anyone on the KRTC's board of directors to supervise the company's operations," he said.

While the Ministry of Transportation and Communications is planning to request NT$16.8 billion to fund the project in next year's budget, Chang said that his caucus will request that the money be frozen until the facts have been uncovered.

Meanwhile, nine KMT Kaohsiung City councilors yesterday filed malfeasance and forgery lawsuits against acting Kaohsiung City mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) as well as Fan Lai-chin (方來進), director of the city's Bureau of Labor Affairs, and Lee Cheng-bin (李正彬), director of the city's Bureau of Rapid Transit System.

In the wake of last month's riot, the city has relocated 500 of the Thai workers contributing to the construction of the MRT system to the city's career training center.

The KMT councilors claimed that the center is supposed to serve unemployed citizens, not regular people.

Denouncing the city's report about the riot, which was made available on Tuesday, as unfair, councilors yesterday pledged to form a council-level investigation task force to further investigate the incident.

Conflict of interest

In related news, KMT Legislator Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) yesterday said that acting heads of local governments must avoid conflicts of interest and must not run for the position they are temporarily filling.

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