Thu, Nov 22, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Premier defends water agency

MISAPPROPRIATION? The premier said a legislative report that the agency planned to divert funds for flood control twisted the facts, but he promised to probe the matter

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) yesterday defended the Water Resources Agency against accusations that it planned to spend NT$290 million (US$8.9 million) of the Cabinet's proposed flood prevention budget on the construction of office buildings for three of the agency's river management offices.

"The agency would like to build [three] water information centers in hopes that this may help prevent floods," Chang said when fielding questions from People First Party Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) during a question-and-answer session.

"The agency's river management offices have their own office buildings. Why would we build new ones?" Chang said. "This [report] seriously twists the facts."

Chang was referring to an evaluation report on the central government's second-stage flood prevention budget released on Tuesday by the legislature's Budget Center, which serves as an advisory body to legislators.

In the report, the center said the agency claimed it would spend the NT$290 million "special budget" on building three "water information centers," but the target of the projects was to construct office buildings for the agency's first, second and sixth river management offices.

The report said the flood prevention budget should be spent on flood management for local governments and should not be expended otherwise.

It also advised the legislature to cancel the proposed NT$290 million budget to prevent the agency from breaking the law.

In response, Chang said yesterday that the Cabinet only spends money on what the budget is intended for, adding that its budget expenditure is also supervised by the Ministry of Audit.

Chang, however, promised that he would probe further into the matter to answer legislators' questions about the proposed construction projects.

The premier also reported to the legislature on the Cabinet's budget proposal for the second-stage flood prevention plan, scheduled to start in fiscal 2008 and end in fiscal 2010.

Chang said that the NT$44.5 billion budget for the plan includes NT$3.5 billion for the establishment of rainwater drainage systems in flood-prone areas and NT$40.9 billion for the improvement of river and regional drainage systems in these areas.

On the progress of the first-phase of the project, Chang said that silt removal work was 61 percent ahead of schedule.

He added that all emergency projects launched to lower risks in flood-prone areas would be completed by the end of this year.

Chang said that the project has proven to be effective, with the depth and duration of flooding in these areas all lower compared with previous years despite typhoons and periods of heavy rainfall earlier this year.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) asked Chang why the Cabinet needed to do flood prevention work near the Shuhu River (樹湖溪) area of Shoufeng Township (壽豐), Hualien County.

"This area is about 400m above sea level. Is it likely that a place 400m above sea level will be flooded?" Tien said.

Tien questioned the need for the Council of Agriculture to spend NT$1.3 million on landscape engineering -- including building four pavilions -- in such a "desolate" area.

Additional reporting by CNA

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