Tue, Dec 27, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Closure of catering company sends schools scrambling

Staff Writer, with CNA

More than 50 schools in New Taipei City (新北市) have been affected by the sudden closure over the weekend of a catering company that is under investigation for bribery, the city’s Education Department said yesterday.

OK Food Co, one of the major suppliers of school lunches in New Taipei City, announced on Friday it was discontinuing its services starting the following day, which left 51 elementary and junior high schools temporarily without a lunch catering service, the department said.

OK Food’s owner, surnamed Lee (李), was detained and questioned by prosecutors in October in an investigation into allegations of bribery implicating school lunch caterers and school authorities in New Taipei City. Lee was later released on NT$1 million (US$33,000) bail.

OK Food had been supplying about 30,000 boxed lunches daily to more than 50 schools in the city.

On Friday, Lee and his company issued a termination notice through an attorney. Since that time, city government authorities and the media have not been able to reach Lee.

Immediately after the city’s Department of Education received the notice, it alerted all the affected schools and advised them to find new caterers.

By Sunday, the schools that OK Food had been serving had managed to shift their orders to other caterers in time for the start of the school week, department officials said.

Prosecutors have been investigating allegations of bribery since May after they received a tip-off that some caterers in the city had paid kickbacks to school executives to secure contracts.

Twenty-nine incumbent or retired principals were questioned and 13 have been detained since October, while 16 others have been released on bail.

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