Tue, Apr 21, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers demand probe into museum construction

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

A legislative committee yesterday demanded a thorough investigation into the construction of the new National Palace Museum in Chiayi and a report within 45 days.

The Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee ruled that the Ministry of Justice's Investigation Bureau should conduct a comprehensive investigation into the case and said it hoped to see substantial results, adding that the committee would hear a report within a month and a half.

With Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) committee members absent, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers expressed differing opinions on the construction project. While some were in favor of continuing the project, some were against, saying it was unnecessary to honor a promise made by the former DPP administration.

Describing the project as an “election maneuver,” KMT Legislator John Wu (吳志揚) asked National Palace Museum Director Chou Kung-shin (周? why she wanted to “clean up [the former government's] mess” and whether she could stop the project.

Chou said it would be up to the “highest level” to decide.

Wu said the bureau had not charged anyone since it launched a probe into the affair in May 2006, saying that gave the public the impression there had been a coverup.

Wu said the project was problematic from the start and that the bureau should question former museum director Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) on the matter.

KMT Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said he wanted to know why Taipao (太保), Chiayi County, was picked as the site for the museum's southern branch as it was only 10km away from the Chelungpu fault (車籠埔斷層), where the epicenter of the 921 earthquake in 1999 was located.

KMT Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) asked the bureau to investigate why three ground-breaking ceremonies were held over the past eight years, but “not a single pillar has been erected.”

He also asked the bureau to conduct an inquiry into allegations that an exorbitant amount of money had been spent building a road leading to the museum and buying garbage cans.

Lu said KMT Chiayi councilors claimed the road cost about NT$300 million and each garbage can cost NT$18,000.

Investigation Bureau Director-General Wu Ying (吳瑛) said a task force had been set up to investigate the allegations and another would also be established in Chiayi. Lu requested the bureau report back within a month.

While the former DPP administration had planned to open the museum last year, Chou said preparations on the site would be completed next month and part of the 70-hectare complex would be opened to the public by 2013. The new museum will feature Asian culture and art and some of the museum's collection that can't be exhibited because of inadequate display space in Taipei.

KMT Legislator Wu Ching-chih (吳清池) was concerned about an increase in the management consultancy fee for the project from NT$120 million to NT$160 million. The contract was later terminated on the grounds that the bidding process violated the Procurement Act (採購法).

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