Bureaucrats who make overseas study or business trips are required to file reports on their travels, but the quality of the reports filed by Taipei City officials came under fire from Taipei City Council members yesterday.
A look at about 50 reports done by various bureaus or city-run institutions found few relevant suggestions or conclusions to improve the city, but lots of irrelevant notes on tour spots, translation of information on foreign Web sites, or even plagiarized copy, the four Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members said.
The four women released their list of the "Ten Most Ridiculous Reports" at a press conference, saying the 10 were culled from a review of about 40 to 50 reports filed between 2003 and this year.
One of the top 10 was a 1,038-character report filed by a group from the Taipei City Municipal Chinese Medicine Hospital after a week-long visit to Beijing's Chinese Medicine Hospital in 2003.
Officials from the Public Works Bureau went on a study tour of France and Switzerland, and discussed the flavors and types of lavender in Provence in their report.
The councilors said that in addition to irrelevant or vague information, there were reports that copied information from Web sites or academic works without citing the sources.
"The purpose of overseas study tours is for the bureaus to learn from other countries' experience and increase international exchanges. Judging from the poor quality of the reports, however, the city government has turned these tours into some kind of sightseeing trips to entertain its staffers," Councilor Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) said.
Councilor Lee Wen-yin (李文英) said the city government budgets approximately NT$70 million (US$2.07 million) for "overseas study and observation tours" every year.
Not only did the travelers fail to present reports with practical and useful advice relevant to city construction and planning, but even Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (
The copies of the reports provided by councilwomen showed that Ma copied a press release posted on the Urban Planning Bureau's Web site in a report filed after a nine-day visit last year to Berlin and Barcelona to observe the cities' architecture and culture.
Other reports included what the councilwomen called "ridiculous and irrelevant comments" such as "there are no stalls on the street, and so it is clean," or "the folk art performance is very good."
Councilor Lu Ying-ying (呂瀅瀅) said even members of the Department of Government Ethics and Research, Development and Evaluation Committee (RDEC) -- the two departments responsible for monitoring the quality and ethics of such reports -- had copied university professors' articles into reports that they filed.
"These plagiarized reports violate intellectual property rights. Even the monitoring bureaus have made mistakes," she said. "These poor-quality reports highlight the fact that the study tours have not had the effect they are supposed to have had."
The RDEC, however, denied any misconduct in its review process. It said that all agencies have internal review systems to monitor such reports before it recives them, and that it invites experts to review reports if the trip covered was more than three months in length.