Following a preliminary review of the budget of the 2017 Universiade, Taipei City councilors yesterday accused the city government of misusing public funds and extravagant spending for the project, for which a budget of NT$36.8 billion (US$1.25 billion) has been allocated.
The Universiade is an international multi-sport event organized for student athletes by the International University Sports Federation (FISU).
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) City Councilor Wang Hao (王浩) said 64 venues are to be used for the games, but rental contracts have not been signed for any of them.
“The contracts were originally to be completed by August, but this has not been done. So far, all the cases are still being worked out, yet more than NT$5 billion has already been committed for the renovation and upgrading of these venues,” Wang said on Sunday.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) City Councilor Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) said the budget for the international publicity campaign was set at NT$40 million.
“The promotional video alone cost more than NT$5 million, but the product was not worth the money spent,” she said.
Yen added that the domestic promotional campaign did not include advertising in leading newspapers and television networks that have the highest readership and viewer ratings.
DPP City Councilor Lin Shih-tsung (林世宗) said NT$46 million had been allocated for the organizing committee’s staff recruitment, which has 15 divisions with 30 people each and will be expanded to 60 people next year.
“This is a process that lacks transparency. It may become a ‘black book’ operation, because the city has not explained its hiring policy in this area. Some staff were hired after just an interview, and their qualifications and expertise have been questioned,” Lin said.
In response, Yuan Shou-fang (袁守方), division head of Competitive Sports of the city’s Department of Sports, said these jobs involved the workings of the organizing committee at the grassroots levels, and job-contracting companies will advertise the placement ads on the Internet.
Other councilors accused Taipei officials of taking the opportunity to use the money on themselves, while acting like penny pinchers toward the athletes.
DPP City Councilor Kao Chia-yu (高嘉瑜) pointed to the allocation of NT$3.6 million for city sports officials to attend international events next year.
KMT City Councilor Lee Ching-yuan (李慶元) said the organizing committee only allocated NT$1.68 million to nine schools for their preliminary training programs and subsidies for going abroad to attend international competitions.
“This came to less than NT$190,000 per school. The student athletes are the main focus of the Universiade, but the city government budget allocated to them is pitifully low,” Lee said.
A number of political pundits also accused the central government of “robbing the poor, and giving to the rich,” by lavishing NT$36.8 billion on well-off Taipei, while other municipalities and counties lack money for basic public services and upkeep of infrastructure and facilities, such as road repair, street lighting, trash collection and personnel wages.