Wed, Aug 25, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Prices for expo plants spark row

FLOWER STINKThe government acknowledged some of the plants were overpriced and the mayor said the Department of Government Ethics is looking into the matter

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

The purchase prices of 281 types of flowers and plants to be used in the Taipei International Flora Expo was unveiled yesterday by the Taipei City Government, which also acknowledged purchasing flowers at prices higher than the market value.

Of all 1,322 types of flowers and plants the city government purchased from local farmers, the prices of 13 types was 30 percent higher than their market prices. Prices of four types of flowers and plants were even 2.7 times higher than market prices, figures from Taipei City’s Department of Economic Development showed.

Acknowledging the city government’s problematic purchase of overpriced flowers and plants, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday said the city’s Department of Government Ethics has been looking into the responsibilities of the contractor and departments responsible.

“The price of flowers changes constantly depending on time and type, and most of the flowers for the expo were purchased after price comparisons … We will not cover our mistakes, but at the same time, please don’t discredit our efforts,” Hau told a press conference at the Taipei City Hall.

Hau said the city government referenced the price of the flowers and plants from the Council of Agriculture and another five organizations before making the purchases, and 90 percent of the flowers were purchased from local farmers to boost local business.

The city government’s preparations have drawn criticism from the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Taipei City councilors, who challenged the city government’s ability to organize the event, including issues such as traffic plans and the use of the budget.

The DPP’s Taipei mayoral candidate Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has joined DPP Taipei City Councilor Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) and Huang Hsiang-chun (黃向群) in accusing the city government of allowing the contractor to make excessive profits, as it was able to purchase azalea flowers at eight times higher than the market price.

Chen Hsiung-wen (陳雄文), commissioner of the economic development department, said azaleas were not purchased for the expo, but for a green environment project on the Xinsheng Overpass.

Taipei City’s New Works Office, which was responsible for the project, blamed the high cost of the flowers on the contractor, and said it would present the case to prosecutors for further investigation.

The Taipei International Flora Expo, which starts on Nov. 6 and runs until April 26 next year at 14 pavilions in several venues in Taipei, is the second major international event hosted by Hau’s municipal administration, following the Deaflympics last year.

The budget for the expo is NT$9.5 billion (US$290 million), while the budget for purchasing flowers and plants is NT$2.1 billion.

Dismissing the DPP’s criticism that some of the expo budget had been wasted by the city government, Hau said the 171-day event will create NT$16.8 billion in economic returns and raise the production value of the floral industry by about 22 percent.

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