Sat, Apr 14, 2007 - Page 4 News List

DPP legislators allege that park restoration is rigged

DODGY DEALINGS? Huashan Culture Park is managed by the Council for Cultural Affairs and boasts historic buildings, including a winery and railway station

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Council for Cultural Affairs rigged its bidding process for a project to restore Huashan Culture Park in Taipei in favor of one particular contractor and council chairman Chiu Kun-liang (邱坤良) has rented out buildings in the park at deflated prices, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators alleged yesterday.

Speaking to reporters at the DPP caucus' office in the legislature yesterday, DPP legislators Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬), Charles Chiang (江昭儀) and Huang Chao-hui (黃昭輝) demanded that the council stop its bidding process for the park restoration project and submit to legislative oversight before beginning the process anew.

"There is strong evidence that the project is rigged through and through," Gao said.

Located on Bade Road, Taipei, the park is managed by the council and boasts a number of historic structures, including a winery and railway station dating back to the Qing Dynasty.

In recent years, the council has been renovating the buildings into a performing arts center, and plans to further renovate the park, according to its Web site.

Those plans, Huang said, are riddled with shady practices, not the least of which was the method of "public" announcement for the project to attract the best contractor. The council said late last year that the tender would begin in July of this year, but then "secretly" started the bidding process during the Lunar New Year holiday -- a time when most people were on vacation.

The bidding process is set to conclude on Monday, according to a press release from Gao's office.

"The council didn't want the news of the tender to get out. They wanted to catch outsiders off guard and ill-prepared to submit their bids," Huang added.

Other suspicious developments in the park include the council's setting outrageously low rents, Gao told reporters, saying that the historical buildings in the park, which are located amid prime real estate, are being rented out to local businesses "at prices scarcely above the total for land and income taxes for the buildings."

So far, three private organizations have submitted bids for the restoration project, the release said: The Association of Culture Environment Reform, Taiwan; the Creative Cultural Industry Association; and a local construction firm that apparently has neither a Web site nor an English name.

The council rebutted the claims of the legislators in a statement last night, saying that both its bidding process and the collection of rent have been conducted in a legal manner.

The council added that rent has been kept low to retain investors interested in the property as a base for their performing arts business after they had already invested NT$150 million (US$4.6 million) in its restoration.

Although the rent has been set low, the council added, its collection has been in line with the relevant laws.

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