Sun, Dec 31, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Ministry denies hiding flawed passports

PARTLY TRUE:The foreign ministry admitted that more than twice the estimated number of bungled passports were produced, but said it was under no obligation to pay

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Washington Dulles International Airport is displayed on an inner page of a sample Taiwanese biometric passport on Tuesday.

Photo: Lu Yi-hsuan, Taipei Times

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday dismissed an accusation by New Power Party Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) that it has hidden 550,000 additional copies of its botched passport, but acknowledged that a total of 550,000 copies, instead of 200,000 as previously stated, had been printed.

Ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) made the remarks in a statement yesterday, responding to claims that the total loss from the passport mishap was far more than initial estimates of about NT$300 million (US$10 million), due to the alleged cover-up.

“Until this day, the public has been kept in the dark: Rather than only 200,000 passports, 550,000 more copies of the botched passport were actually printed,” Huang said on Facebook yesterday morning.

He said the ministry was originally scheduled to accept the second batch on Thursday, but canceled it at the last minute after discovering on Tuesday that the new passport — which went into circulation on Monday — contained an image mistakenly based on Washington Dulles International Airport instead of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

“[The second batch] is now hidden at the Central Engraving and Printing Plant’s second warehouse. Given that the manufacturing cost for each passport is NT$403, the loss sustained by our state coffers cannot be merely NT$90 million as reported … but must be more than NT$300 million,” Huang said.

It was even more infuriating that Central Engraving and Printing Plant general manager Chen Yung-hui (陳永輝) continued to lie when appearing at a legislative session on Wednesday, Huang said, adding that he managed to conceal the 550,000 copies from Control Yuan members who inspected the plant’s second warehouse on Friday.

In response, Lee said that the ministry’s Bureau of Consular Affairs had only placed an order of 550,000 copies for the next-generation biometric passport, rejecting claims that a total of 750,000 copies have been manufactured.

“The first batch of 200,000 copies that the ministry has accepted are to be returned to the printing plant for reprint due to misuse of a photograph” by the printing plant’s designer, Lee said, adding that the bureau has not paid the NT$80 million printing bill.

Regarding the remaining 350,000 copies the ministry has yet to accept, Lee said the printing plant — a subsidiary of the central bank — was required to deliver products meeting its graphic standards before the bureau would sign off and pay for the batch.

As for allegations that Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) reached an agreement with central bank Governor Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南) on Friday to jointly shoulder the expenses needed to correct the mistake, Andrew Lee said he “has absolutely never heard of such a matter.”

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