Sat, Jul 22, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Cable car corruption case sparks bickering

GOVERNMENT SPAT Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou and the city government defended themselves after the Cabinet asked them to share responsibility for the problems

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The corruption allegations related to the construction of a cable car system in Taipei's Beitou District sparked a blame game between the central and Taipei City governments yesterday.

The case, which saw the detention of high-ranking government officials including the Vice Minister of the Interior (MOI) Yen Wan-chin (顏萬進), came to light after Taipei prosecutors found that MOI officials had illegally taken payments from contractors and granted them construction permits without environmental impact assessments being conducted.

While the Executive Yuan on Thursday expressed its regret over Yen's involvement in the case and accepted his resignation, Cabinet Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) yesterday said the Taipei City Government, which is the supervising agency for the project, should share responsibility as Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) allowed his staff members to alter the project so that it would not require environmental impact assessments.

blame

"We are not trying to shift the blame. We just want to clarify the issue," Cheng said at the Executive Yuan.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chia-chin (徐佳青) also questioned the city government for overlooking the contract's flaws and sheltering the contractors.

Ma yesterday dismissed the accusations, and reiterated the city government's innocence as the construction areas involved are all within the boundaries of Yangmingshan National Park, which comes under the authority of the Yangmingshan National Park Administration.

"The prosecutors would have come after the city government already if any of our officials were involved ? [The DPP] is just trying to drag us into this," Ma said after presiding over a municipal meeting at Taipei City Hall.

Ma repeated that the original cable car project, which was approved by the Executive Yuan in 1995, included the construction of a cable car system from Qinshui Park (親水公園) in Xinbeitou to Yangmingshan National Park, cable car stations and stores, but did not include the construction of hot spring hotels.

approval

The project, Ma said, did not require an environmental impact assessment, and it was the interior ministry that decided to add a training dormitory and hot springs hotel to the project when it issued a bulletin announcing approval of the project.

"The ministry asked us whether or not the construction of resort hotels required assessments after issuing the license to the contractor this June. This was quite strange because it was not for us to decide if an assessment was needed," Ma said.

Lee Shu-chuan (李四川), director of the Bureau of Public Works' New Construction department, also argued that the ministry should have discussed the issue of environmental impact assessments directly with the Environmental Protection Administration, rather than the city government.

While Ma insisted the city government followed legal procedures, Hsu accused the city government of being "too passive" as the supervisory agency.

"The department should have questioned the contractors and the ministry when they tried to build resort hotels," she said, adding that the city government was still responsible in a supervisory capacity, if not legally.

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