Tue, Apr 02, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Ministry of Defense defends building of second gymnasium

By Lo Tien-pin and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Ministry of National Defense’s communications development office has allegedly squandered taxpayers’ money on unnecessary renovation projects, according to an anonymous complaint.

An anonymous reader of the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) recently lodged a complaint with the paper alleging that the communications development office based in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Linkou District (林口) spent about NT$2.3 million (US$77,000) early last month to convert a room into a gymnasium when it already boasted one such facility outfitted with a variety of fitness equipment.

“The ministry is suspected of squandering taxpayers’ money and should make its reasons for carrying out the renovation projects known to the public,” the reader said.

In response, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) yesterday said that the office launched bidding on Feb. 5 for the conversion of a long-disused karaoke room into a gymnasium, a roof waterproofing project and the remodeling of a bathroom on the ground floor.

The budget earmarked for these projects was about NT$3 million, but a construction company won the bid for NT$2.3 million, which included NT$720,600 for the roof waterproofing and NT$281,840 for the bathroom renovation, Lo said.

Communications development offices are the ministry’s main agencies tasked with collecting electronic intelligence on China and are off-limits to the public.

In an effort to improve the general physical fitness of military officers, the ministry has equipped several military units and schools nationwide with gymnasiums and fitness equipment.

According to an official from the communications development office in question, the NT$3 million budget allocated for the renovation projects was aimed at facilitating physical training for military personnel and helping them develop exercise regimens.

“The bid for these projects was launched in accordance with the Government Procurement Act (政府採購法) and was won by a construction firm on March 20,” the official added.

However, an anonymous source familiar with the matter questioned the necessity of the projects, saying that the office had already set up a gymnasium full of fitness equipment five years ago, all of which are still serviceable.

In response, the official said that because Linkou was prone to high humidity and rain and the office was located in a relatively remote area, it spent NT$1.97 million in 2008 and NT$430,000 in 2010 respectively remodeling its gymnasium and purchasing fitness equipment in an effort to help build up the physical fitness of its employees, who have to work three different shifts.

“In view of the ministry’s recent campaign to improve military officers’ physical fitness, cultivate sports culture in relevant agencies and facilitate physical training for soldiers based in mountainous areas, remote areas and outlying islands, the office last year purchased a set of fitness equipment worth a total of about NT$1.8 million and drew up plans for the ongoing renovation projects,” the official said.

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