Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) was grilled by the Legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday as legislators questioned the appropriateness of granting the Directorate General of Highways (DGH) director two merits for repairing transportation infrastructure damaged by Typhoon Morakot.
The award came to light after the lawmakers received a letter from “a group of rational DGH workers.”
The letter said the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Water Resources Agency sent an official notice to the DGH in June to remind them that the Shuangyuan Bridge’s (雙園大橋) pile footings were exposed. The DGH did not act on it until July 15th, when it sent officials to inspect the site. The letter said the DGH did not close the bridge, even though it knew there could be safety concerns. The bridge collapsed during Typhoon Morakot.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) did not punish officials for the losses caused by the bridge’s collapse. Rather, DGH director Lin Chih-ming (林志明) received two merits from the MOTC.
Mao admitted that he had approved the award, adding that under Lin’s management, many damaged roads became accessible before the designated deadlines.
Lawmakers from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), however, challenged Mao over the award.
KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said standard operating procedures authorized the DGH to close the bridge at night or when its condition was unclear. The Water Resources Agency had also reminded the DGH to heed the warnings about the safety of the bridge.
“Now the director general of the Water Resources Agency had to step down, but the DGH chief bagged two merits on his work record,” Lo said of the irony.
DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said the prize was unconscionable.
“Four cars fell into the river and five people are still missing,” Yeh said. “You can imagine how the family members must have felt when they found out about this award.”
In response, Lin said that when the DGH inspected the Shuangyuan Bridge in July, 3m of the bridge’s pile footings were exposed, but standard operating procedures said bridge closure wasn’t necessary until 6m of pile footings were exposed.
Lin said that the DGH would review the standards used for bridge closures.
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