More than 10 elementary-school principals from the New Taipei City (新北市) area are being investigated for allegedly accepting kickbacks from school lunch dealers, the Banciao District Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday.
The office has arraigned six school principals for questioning and searched several elementary schools yesterday — including three schools in Banciao (板橋), two in Sinjhuang (新莊), two in Lujhou (蘆洲), and one each in Sansia (三峽) and Shulin (樹林).
A preliminary investigation showed that the lunch dealers might have bribed the school principals to receive a better evaluation grade, enabling them to make a bid for supplying school lunches, prosecutors said.
Schools usually hold bids for lunchbox suppliers once every semester. To gain an edge, some dealers would add NT$3 to NT$5 per lunchbox as a bribe for school principals, prosecutors said, adding that some school heads were receiving up to NT$200,000 to NT$300,000 a semester.
Ten school lunch dealers, which supply more than 80 to 90 percent of the city’s elementary school lunches, were also searched yesterday, they said.
Secondary arraignments targeting members of school committees that evaluate these lunches will be held today, they added.
The prosecution has preliminarily excluded other administrative-level personnel at the schools from the investigation, saying school principals are the primary focus at the moment.
New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) said he was sorry to hear about the corruption allegations, vowing that no matter where the money trail leads to, he would track it to the very end.
New Taipei City Deputy Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) said that the issue first came to light in May and the city’s Anti-Corruption Department was asked to look into the matter.
The department found several incidents of principals accepting bribes, or problems with the evaluation committee members, Hou said.
The information was forwarded to the Banciao District Prosecutors’ Office for further investigation, he added.
New Taipei City’s Parents’ Association chairman Wan Chin-yi (王欽益) said he was shocked and also angry on hearing the news, adding that he hoped it was only an error on the part of some schools’ bidding process.
Additional reporting by Tseng Te-feng
Translated by Jake Chung, Staff writer