Wed, Sep 15, 2010 - Page 3 News List

DPP lawmakers call for full city probe

CREDIBILITYThe opposition said an inquiry into the overpricing scandal that has engulfed Taipei should be handled by prosecutors — not a city-appointed panel

By Vincent Y. Chao and Ko Shu-ling  /  Staff Reporters

In the latest flare-up over the Taipei City Government overpricing scandal, opposition lawmakers yesterday called for a full investigation into the controversy and said it should be handled by the prosecutors’ office instead of a municipal task force.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) on Monday approved the resignations of Lee Yong-ping (李永萍) as his deputy mayor, his adviser Chuang Wen-ssu (莊文思) and Chuang's wife, Ren Shiao-chi (任孝琦), a secretary in Hau's office.

Although the resignations came in the wake of a string of procurement scandals related to the Taipei International Flora Expo and the Xinsheng Overpass reconstruction project, Hau said the resignations had nothing to do with controversies. Hau on Monday also set up a five-member task force to examine whether there are further irregularities in the flora expo.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) yesterday accused the city government of refusing to take political responsibility for the issue, saying that if Lee had nothing to do with the affair, “who should take the final blame?”

“I want to warn Hau ... that it doesn’t end simply because of the resignations,” Yeh said. “We want this affair to be very clearly examined to find out exactly who is responsible for the mess and how it happened.”

The scandal saw prosecutors raid the Taipei City Government building on Tuesday last week, with five current and former officials listed as defendants on charges of corruption.

DPP lawmakers have argued that the investigation failed to reach senior officials responsible for the scandal and have asked that Hau be included as part of the probe. They added that the municipal task force looking into the entire affair should be replaced by a more experienced team of prosecutors.

DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) suggested that any inquiry would be better handled by an agency independent of the city government as most of those allegedly involved are municipal employees.

“Otherwise, where is the credibility? If Hau truly wanted to a thorough investigation into the affair, he should find an independent third-party authority,” Wong said. “I think taxpayers will be very disappointed if prosecutors do not become actively involved in this.”

Meanwhile, KMT legislators were divided as to whether the city government's reshuffle would help salvage Hau's electoral outlook.

When asked for comment, KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), one of the five members of the task force set up by Hau, said the mayor had shown his resolve to reform the city government.

“I believe this could help him win back the hearts of [KMT] supporters because this move means that he would like to do more [to improve the city government's performance],” Lai said.

KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said although he gave Hau credit for taking action, the move would only temporarily save Hau's re-election bid.

“What matters is how [the mayor] handles the controversy next,” Wu said.

A survey released by the cable station TVBS on Thursday suggest Hau has taken a hammering from the incident. Support for the beleaguered Hau was 3 points behind his DPP opponent Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) at 42 percent and 45 percent respectively.

DPP city councilors, fueled by continued media coverage of the controversy, have continued an almost daily barrage of questions on other cases of alleged overbilling, including a hand dryer and toilet paper for the Flora Expo that was alleged to have cost taxpayers many times more than the market price.

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