Tue, Aug 14, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Center accused of wasting funds

NO BACKUP PLAN:The fire department has said that, contrary to the accusations, the disaster prevention systems did not stand idle and would be put in due time

By Chen Ching-min, Chen Hsin-jen and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

A Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator has accused officials in charge of building a backup center in Nantou County of squandering public money and of dereliction of duty by procuring hundreds of millions of New Taiwan dollars in disaster prevention and relief systems while construction was still underway.

“According to an informant, the backup center has spent NT$120 million [US$4 million] on purchasing the most advanced satellite and microwave communication systems for disaster prevention and relief works, although this equipment would only be installed in the center after construction is completed,” KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said on Sunday.

Some of the equipment has been temporarily stored in the headquarters and local divisions of the Nantou County Fire Department, Lo said, adding that it has become an additional burden to the firefighters in those departments.

She said that although this equipment may have been considered state-of-the-art technology when it was purchased, by the time construction wraps up — originally scheduled for the end of last year — it may already be rusty or outdated.

The backup center, which is located in the National Fire Agency’s training center in Nantou’s Chushan Township (竹山), will serve as the Central Emergency Operation Center’s command base in the event of natural disasters and as a training area for relief workers otherwise.

A budget of about NT$449 million has been allocated for the construction, as well as software and hardware procurement, for the backup center.

“Most property owners start purchasing furniture and decorating the interior of their houses only after construction is completed. Strangely, the backup center chose to acquire this high-technology equipment despite the delay in construction,” Lo said.

“Who should take the blame for such a preposterous decision? Has anyone benefited from this absurdity? Or does it constitute squandering of public funds?” Lo asked.

In response to the accusations, the fire department said that a satellite communications network system that was to be installed in the backup center in 2006 was temporarily stored and used by the fire department, as the construction of the training center was under way at the time.

The system has been activated during a few disaster prevention exercises, the fire department said, adding that it would be relocated in stages to the center depending on the progress of the construction work and equipment installation.

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