Thu, Feb 09, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Tsao’s housing not an issue: Cabinet

By Lee Hsin-fang and Yeh Yung-chien  /  Staff reporters

The replacement of former Council of Agriculture (COA) minister Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻) in the recent Cabinet reshuffle had nothing to do with his sharing a government-owned house with three female colleagues, the Executive Yuan said yesterday.

Chinese-language media reports said Tsao’s sharing of the house in Taipei’s Zhongzheng District (中正) — a dormitory reserved for the head of the council — partly contributed to his replacement in the recent Cabinet reshuffle.

Executive Yuan spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said Tsao’s housing situation had absolutely nothing to do with the reshuffle and that sharing the accommodation was completely legal.

“They lived in separate spaces. There was nothing illegal,” Hsu said. “It was [arranged] long ago and had nothing to do with [his removal].”

The three council employees — senior executive officer Huang Li-hsia (黃麗霞), senior secretary Tseng Mei-ling (曾美玲) and secretary Lin Shu-hui (林淑惠) — were Tsao’s close aides when he was Pingtung County commissioner.

In a statement, the council said that it had dormitories for minister and deputy ministers, but not for other employees, but after Tsao took office, the second floor of the minister’s house was transformed into an employee dormitory and opened to all council employees.

Applications for dormitory places are evaluated according to applicant’s working performance, and the three women were given places in accordance with the council’s rules and duly paid their rent and utility bills, the council said.

As the manager of its dormitories, the council did not have to seek the National Property Administration’s approval for altering the minister’s dormitory, although it had registered the repurposing on the administration’s Web site.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱), a former Pingtung County deputy commissioner and aide to Tsao, said he was sorry about the media’s treatment of Tsao, who shared his official dormitory out of consideration for his assistants.

“Tsao is known for his integrity and candidness, and the female employees named in the report have served on Tsao’s staff since he was a member of the Taiwan Provincial Council. It [the house sharing] became an issue just because they are women,” Chung said.

Tsao did not seek the council post, but took the job because President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had nominated him, the lawmaker said.

Huang, Tseng and Lin, who had worked as Pingtung County government confidential secretary, Pingtung Department of Hakka Affairs director and Pingtung Department of Research and Evaluation director respectively, gave up their jobs to follow Tsao to Taipei and work for the council, Chung said.

Tsao offered to share the dormitory because of Taipei’s high living cost and the non-fixed-term employment of political appointees, but his kindness has been distorted and misreported, Chung said.

The central government does not to provide sufficient housing for such officials, he said.

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