The Control Yuan yesterday impeached Chen Shen-hsien (陳伸賢), the director-general of the Water Resources Agency (WRA), for his “flawed supervision” of the Dajia River (大甲溪), which they said caused the Houfeng Bridge (后豐橋) to collapse in a typhoon that claimed two lives and left four people missing in September.
When asked by the press whether he felt like a scapegoat as the only official who was impeached over the incident, Chen said he didn’t dare say he was “wronged,” but he felt “very depressed.”
After receiving the impeachment statement, Chen said his agency had been working hard at river management and there would be improvement.
The Control Yuan’s review committee approved the impeachment by a vote of six to four, but it did not suggest any punishment for Chen to the Disciplinary Sanctions of Functionaries, the government organ that adjudicates such cases after they are affirmed by the Control Yuan.
“Remedying river basins and stabilizing water flows are the most important duties of the head of the WRA, but over the years, Chen Shen-hsien did not come up with plans to actively build sills in river beds, and left alone, its continuous erosion became a problem,” said Huang Wu-tzu (黃武次), a Control Yuan member.
The Control Yuan also charged Chen with “dereliction of duty” as the WRA failed to assess the impact on the bridge before it started a construction project in 2005 to bury an exposed water pipe, located in the riverbed 20m upstream.
Houfeng Bridge, which connected Taichung County’s Houli (后里) and Fengyuan (豐原) townships, had been listed as needing immediate repair two years ago, as the long-term erosion had left the bridge supports exposed, but no work was done on the bridge before it collapsed.
One week after the incident, Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC) Director-General of Highways James Chen (陳晉源) stepped down.
MOTC Minister Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) also offered to resign following mounting criticism from lawmakers, but Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) did not accept his resignation.
The Highways Bureau was also criticized for not sealing off the bridge earlier during the heavy rain to prevent cars from falling into the river.
When asked why no MOTC officials were impeached for the incident, Hwang said the investigation results didn’t mean that other officials were free from liability.
“Some agencies have already punished their staff,” Hwang said.
Control Yuan member Liu Yu-shan (劉玉山) said that the Control Yuan made the decision to close the bridge in accordance with standard operating procedure.
Hung Teh-shuan (洪德旋), another Control Yuan member, said that the Control Yuan would propose corrective measures for government agencies based on their handling of the incident.