Several government officials could face administrative punishments for their handling of a recent outbreak of H5N2 avian influenza, the Council of Agriculture’s Performance Evaluation Board said on Tuesday night.
The council said three officials could receive minor demerits, including two minor demerits to former Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine director Hsu Tien-lai (許天來), and would be reported to the Control Yuan for further investigations.
Hsu will be investigated for irregularities in the handling of cases of H5N2 in Changhua County’s Fangyuan Township (芳苑) in 2010, the conditions surrounding a 2010 outbreak in Greater Tainan, as well as his handling of evidence of an outbreak in Changhua County that was provided by freelance journalist and documentary director Kevin H.J. Lee (李惠仁) in December last year.
In a report, the council said the bureau had been at fault when determining the severity of the strains of avian influenza in Fangyuan and Chuanghua, which delayed the implementation of precautionary measures and reporting to the World Organisation for Animal Health.
The report recommended that former bureau chief Watson Sun (宋華聰) and Huang Jin-cheng (黃金城), chief of the Animal Health Research Institute, each receive a minor demerit and be investigated by the Control Yuan regarding the alleged cover-up of the 2010 H5N2 outbreak in Greater Tainan.
The report said that during the Greater Tainan outbreak, the Animal Health Research Institute committed a procedural error by avoiding a review by specialists.
It also said the Animal Diseases Control Center did not gather samples according to standard procedures, and that the bureau and the institute failed to follow up on the disposal measures.
In addition, Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Wang Cheng-teng (王政騰) will be reported to the Control Yuan for his involvement in the Greater Tainan case.
Former Council of Agriculture minister Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) was not recommended for further investigation.
Council of Agriculture Secretary-General Tai Yu-yen (戴玉燕) said the recommendations were reached after two weeks of investigations, examining 12 documents and conducting eight interviews within the council, including interviews with Wang and a report written by Chen.
Tai said that although Wang received a call from the chicken farm owner in the Greater Tainan case and asked another official to help deal with the case, Wang did not receive any further verbal or written response and thus would only be reported for his involvement in the case.
In addition, Tai said that “investigators said Hsu’s replies often jumped from one topic to the other, and tended to use exaggerated wording to express the importance of certain subjects,” when responding to questions about closed-door meetings that were recorded and exposed by legislators, and in which Hsu said the notification of the outbreak should be postponed until “after the boss steps down.”