Wed, Jan 21, 2009 - Page 2 News List

City councilors criticize Maokong gondola probe

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors yesterday lashed out at the Taipei City Government’s Department of Government Ethics for failing to challenge senior officials in its investigation report into the construction of the Maokong Gondola scandal and for attributing the blame for all errors on contractors and junior civil servants.

The department launched the investigation last month amid growing criticism of the decision to build the gondola in the unstable mountainous areas of Muzha (木柵). Operations at the gondola were suspended on Oct. 1.

The independence of the department was questioned by DPP councilors after Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) returned its initial report last month and requested further investigation.

The subsequent report blamed contractors for failing to complete a drilling report on the sites where the support pillars were built and held an engineer at Taipei City’s New Construction Office surnamed Tien (田) responsible for failing to provide comprehensive information on the results of geological drilling tests before construction began.

Tien and the office were responsible for examining the drilling report conducted by the contractor.

No former or current city government officials, including then-Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Hau, were mentioned in the report.

“Shouldn’t city government officials be responsible for making the decision to build the gondola in the first place and for their sloppy supervision?” DPP Taipei City Councilor Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said yesterday during a press conference at the Taipei City Council.

DPP Taipei City Councilor Liu Yao-ren (劉耀仁) joined in the criticism. Ma, Hau and related departments — including the Department of Transportation and the Department of Economic Development — should take the responsibility for rushing the gondola project and failing to ensure proper land and water conservation, Liv said.

“The report put all the blame on junior civil servants. We are very disappointed with the department and the report,” Liu said.

Liao Wei-le (廖為勒), chief secretary of the department, said the report focused on the responsibilities of the departments and did not look into individual responsibilities. The Taipei District Court and the Control Yuan were also probing the gondola case.

The department has already presented the report to the two bodies.

“We will not protect anyone. If the court or the Control Yuan decide to hold any officials responsible for the gondola system, so be it” he said.

The councilors also criticized Hau for failing to keep his promise of tearing down cable wires at the problematic support pillar, also known as Tower No. 16.

“The pandas may have arrived, but this doesn’t mean we can forget the gondola,” Chuang said.

The Maokong Gondola was a major project of the Ma administration.

Mudslides bought on by Super Typhoon Jangmi caused erosion around a support pillar in September and forced the city to suspend service indefinitely.

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