Wed, Aug 16, 2006 - Page 2 News List

MRT contractor turned in forged claims: officials

NEIHU LINE A city councilor's allegations that DORTS employees might have been involved in the alleged fraud have not been substantiated so far, officials said

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The delay-plagued Neihu line of Taipei's MRT was under a cloud of suspicion yesterday as the city government's Department of Civil Service Ethics confirmed that the line's main contractor was found to have submitted forged check requests and doctored photographs.

However, the investigation so far has found no involvement by employees of the city's Department of Rapid Transit System (DORTS), the ethics department said.

At a press conference on Monday, New Party Taipei City Councilor Lee Chin-yuan (李慶元) accused the contractor of forging check requests and doctoring photographs.

Lee claimed that the contractor had received a total of NT$300 million (US$ 9 million) in soil disposal reimbursement from DORTS since last year and he urged the ethics department to investigate whether DORTS was involved.

Ethics department Commissioner Yang Shi-jeng (楊石金) said yesterday that a review of 1,669 check requests and photographs submitted by the contractor between last November and January found that signatures had been forged, times and dates falsified, and computer-processed photos of dump trucks entering and exiting dumping areas provided as evidence that excavated soil had been transported to legal disposal sites.

"But we didn't find any direct involvement of DORTS officials in the corruption scandal. There could be administrative negligence on DORTS' part," Yang said at the Taipei City Hall.

He said the case had been sent to the Taipei City Field Office of the Investigation Bureau in May for further investigation.

DORTS Commissioner Tom Chang (常岐德) yesterday denied that the contractor had received as much as NT$300 million from his agency, but he did not give a firm number for how much the contractor had been paid.

The contractor is required by contract to dump excavated soil in legal dumping grounds, but it is difficult for DORTS to track every truck and make sure the soil is being sent to legal dump sites, Chang said.

"There are so many trucks going in and out of different dump sites every night. It's almost impossible for our people to confirm that soil is being sent to legal sites," he said.

Lee, however, continued yesterday to criticize DORTS' handling of the reimbursement claims.

"It's easy to tell that there are flaws -- with forged requests and photos -- but DORTS turned a blind eye to the evidence and gave the money to the contractor without questioning it, he said at the Taipei City Council.

Chang said the department will take the appropriate disciplinary action against any employees who are found to be involved in the alleged fraud. But he said DORTS has not decided whether to annul the contract since soil disposal is only a part of the deal.

He suggested that the Ministry of the Interior's Construction and Planning Agency install a GPS device on every truck to monitor its routes. He also urged the government to set up public disposal sites to prevent companies from dumping soil in illegal sites.

The Neihu line, which is schedule to open in 2008, has suffering delays ever since construction began in 2003. The total budget for the project is about NT$32 billion.

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